Hi, my name is John Couley and I am from a large family in Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne. I am the oldest of 6 boys and my mam left us at a young age causing my dad to have to leave his job to look after us full time.
As a result, he lost his car and many other things that we were accustomed to. Things were very tough during this time living in Walker especially because it's a predominantly poor area with mass unemployment and on a daily basis on every street corner there were people taking drugs, drinking alcohol and committing crimes.
Most of my friends were heading down that route. I thought my life was going down hill fast until I went down to the local play centre where I started volunteering to help with younger children to take my mind off the pressures at home.
Then one day there was an opportunity to go on a trip with a new group that was starting out. The trip was to the countryside. At this time in my life I had never been anywhere like that and none of my friends had been either, so I jumped at the opportunity. On the trip I had a fantastic time and looked forward to seeing or hearing from them again.
I didn't hear from them until the same group visited my brothers school to speak to the kids and ask them if they would like to join a new group which would meet up weekly. When my brother told me this I was over the moon. I would love to join the group, so I found out when they were going to have their first meeting and I went down to ask to join and to my delight they said "YES".
From that day on my life changed for the better. We started fundraising for new brilliant challenges with people who were the same age group as me.
During our trips out to the countryside I saw things I'd never seen before. We had many camping trips and I was taking part in many outdoor activities which I'd never taken part in before.
With doing this I started to drift from my old friends who had stayed on the streets of Walker and got involved in things they shouldn't have, therefore ending up going to jail. There were also old friends who were addicted to drugs.