Joary De Oliveira, City Year London
“I had a friend who I grew up with in Hackney. He didn’t like school and didn’t do well. He couldn’t wait to get out of there after his GCSEs. He hadn’t thought about what he was going to do when he left, just what he was getting away from. Obviously he got loads of pressure from everyone – not just from his mum and dad, from everyone – to go do something.
“So he did the first year of an apprenticeship. His heart wasn’t in it and he didn’t like it one bit. Of course he dropped out before he finished it – he’d rather do nothing than do something that didn’t inspire him. But he wasn’t inspired by anything in Hackney, that was his problem.
“So his mum (he was half Ghanaian and half Thai) said, ‘Why don’t you go Thailand for a bit, stay with your family there, grow up a bit and work out what you want?’. I reckon she thought he’s only be a few months, but he stayed there a year, did this and that, but always trying new stuff.
“He was such a different person when he came back. It was like he’d finally worked himself out and what inspired him. He set up his own business and it’s doing pretty well.
“I haven’t got family in Thailand, but for me City Year UK is like travelling for a year, only without having to leave home. A year of service is a chance to do something that means something, and I’m going to see if I really want to do it [mentoring], and if I’m any good at it. And I’ll meet people who are already doing stuff like it who can give me advice and tips.”