Imagine helping a young person get their first job in the morning, canoeing in the afternoon and then ending the day putting out a controlled fire.
This is the day job for Ryan Strudwick, 22, who said that bullying and feeling like an outsider had left him barely able to make a phone call three years ago.
That was before he found out about Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service Prince's Trust from a chance conversation with a stranger who had seen his skill in coaching children to dive.
Then 19, the Southampton teen signed up as a team member and enthusiastically took part in the 12-week programme which he says changed his life – so much so he now works for the group.
The course includes archery and outdoor activity days as well as teaching first aid and fire safety. There is also a focus on life and job skills.
Ryan, from Sholing, said:
“I had always been bullied at school because I was into diving and had to commit a lot of my time to that I was always an outsider and got teased and called names.
“It may be that those making fun of me thought of it as banter. When you are young it is all about appearance and you don’t feel you can say something has upset you.
“HFRS Prince's Trust has improved my confidence and opened up a future for me. I would urge any young people who want to learn life skills, make friends and realise their potential to join up.
“It has changed my life. My girlfriend has noticed I am now more driven and have more of a social life.. and I am happier.”
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has been running its Prince's Trust course for 15 years and this year will see the graduation of its 100th team.
The programme is free and focuses on eight stages which will earn you a nationally recognised qualification and offer the chance to hone your teamwork and leadership skills.
There are about 15 people in each group and those aged 16 to 25 are eligible to take part in the scheme that can help improve job prospects.
After completing the programme Ryan was so impressed with the help and support on offer that he volunteered as a full-time deputy team leader before being taken on as the organisation’s first apprentice.
“I have always wanted a job helping people and was inspired as a child by my mum who was a nurse.
“I would love to carry on working for the trust or become a firefighter. There are people who started off on this programme and have gone on to be firefighters.
“Since starting at the HFRS Princes Trust I have done things that I couldn’t have imagined before. I had a poor self-image and couldn’t stand using the phone.
“Now I am organising events, helping with videos, coaching with CVs – when I wake up I don’t know what the day will bring.”
Ryan said working with people from the fire service and other positive role models inspired him.
Manager Karen Farr praised Ryan’s efforts through the programme and beyond.
“Ryan genuinely used the opportunity of the team programme to change his life in 12 weeks, like so many of the other young people who work with us, and we are very proud of the loyal, hardworking, motivated employee he has become.”
To find out more information or get involved www.hantsfire.gov.uk/princestrust.