Struggling with learning difficulties, Stefan was bullied throughout his childhood. His parents divorced when he was 19 and feeling as though his life was spiralling out of control, Stefan took an overdose. For many years, Stefan was addicted to alcohol; he was in and out of employment and would steal to fund his drinking habit. This caused a great deal of pain to his family and himself.
At age 33, Stefan was convicted for arson and was sent to prison for 13 years. Although this was an extremely difficult time for Stefan, he described it as a ‘blessing in disguise’ as it made him realise he needed to make some positive changes in his life. Whilst in prison, he was able to finally stop drinking, actively study and explore his faith in Christianity – something that has been a source of inspiration and support for him.
In September 2016, a few months after his release, Stefan met Jill from Step Together. He had relocated to the Accrington area and wanted support to continue building a more positive future. Stefan was worried that too much time hanging around the house would result in him turning back to alcohol, so Jill suggested volunteering as this can provide a focus for the day, a positive outlet for energy and an opportunity to meet new people and build confidence.
After discussing his interests and some options together, Stefan decided he would like to do something practical so Jill introduced him to Cycle Roots, a local charity that repair and recycle second-hand bikes. Stefan began volunteering here once a week and has attended in house training sessions on bike maintenance. He is really enjoying learning new skills and feels much more confident.
“I love volunteering, meeting new people and getting involved in different things – I wouldn’t have had the confidence to volunteer before. I would like to learn as much as I can at Cycle Roots and in the future, open my own small bike repair shop. My church has said they will support me with this and it gives me something positive and practical to aim for”.
Emma McNally, manager of Cycle Roots said: “Stefan is very keen to learn new skills; works well with others and has a good understanding of mechanical issues. He has become a valuable member of our team, achieving good results.”
With Jill’s support, Stefan has also applied to start some conservation volunteering next month. This will involve various tasks from building hedges and stone walls, to pond clearing. Stefan likes to keep active, so this is an ideal role for him.