One of the city’s most inspirational people is taking on a new challenge to help people to get the opportunities he never got.
Gethin Jones, who runs Unlocking Potential is taking on the Three Peaks Challenge – climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours – but with a twist – he will perform a headstand at the highest point in England, Scotland and Wales.
He is raising money for Flying Solo – a charity that helps provide opportunities for Portsmouth care leavers, which are young people leaving care homes or foster families.
The 49-year-old, from Southsea, was once in a position where he was leaving the care system and found that because of the lack of support and access to resources, it caused him to fall down a slippery slope.
Now Gethin, who is a trustee of the charity, runs his business to help people like him to get the most out of their lives, through motivational talks in prisons and support for young offenders.
Gethin said: ‘This is close to my heart as I too was a care leaver and truly understand what it is like to find your way in the world when leaving children’s homes or foster care. When I left care in the late 80s it was a daunting experience and in truth I did not always have the guidance I needed.
‘I got to a place where I stopped trusting adults and stopped building relationships because deep down I felt they would not last. This way of being meant that I made a lot of bad choices that led to me going to prison and becoming a dependent heroin user. I would like to say that fast forwarding 30 years things have changed, but unfortunately they have not.’
He is hoping to raise £1000 to allow him and other previous care leavers to do more work to help people when leaving their care families, including allowing them to meet up with friends and families.
He said: ‘A care leaver is more likely to listen and trust another care leaver because they have been there. We know that peer support works, we have seen it with substance misuse and crime, the hope of a better life comes from those that walked the path before them. Myself and others will be the support today’s care leavers need that we never had. This will then mean that in the future the care leavers we help today will be the ones who help the care leavers of tomorrow.’
The challenge has been backed by the charity, as well as Shaping Portsmouth and Portsmouth City Council.
Claire Thomas, who is a trustee at the charity, said: ‘Being care experienced myself means that I am acutely aware of the uncertainty surrounding leaving care. It is a time of challenging life transitions, that, without the right supportive measures in place, can hugely impact mental and physical wellbeing.’
CEO of Shaping Portsmouth, Stef Nienaltowski said: ‘When I was told about the care leavers issue in the city, it resonated with me and I am adamant that we are not going to turn away any care leaver that wants to involve themselves and eventually, every care leaver that has a business mentor that they can meet a few times a year.
‘It’s really beneficial to everyone involved – and much appreciated – that Gethin is doing this and it will allow the work to continue to support care leavers.’