Kyren Barrett, 26
Aspiring youth worker from Crawley.
What kind of background do you come from?
A troubled and violent one. There were 8 children, and my mum’s partners, particularly one of them, were violent towards me. I remember being grabbed, put against a staircase and held around my neck, I was dragged out of bed by my feet. Lots like that. Apparently, I was tied up and kicked on one occasion but I don’t remember that. In fact, I didn’t remember a lot of it for a long time. And I certainly didn’t realise the impact it had on me. When I was 4 or 5, I tried to set the house on fire, I set fire to a towel and ended up seeing a psychiatrist. I told him that I wanted to kill the rest of the family so that I’d have my mum to myself.
What impact did it have on you?
In my teenage years, instead of being the abused, I became the abuser. I took out all that violence on everyone else. I fought everyone and anyone I could get hold of. I missed a lot of school. Years. I got involved with the police when I was 13 when I broke into a house I thought was empty but it wasn’t. Finally I was sent to a special needs boarding school which I really liked at first because there were only 8 of us to a class but the head retired, a new one came in and imposed a lot of new restrictions which I hated. I punched him in the face and was excluded. After that I was fighting to make money as well as because I was out of control. People would pay me to beat someone up. I thought I was born to fight. I ended up doing seven stretches of prison, some for attempted murder. I stabbed one man in the head which I am now really ashamed of. No-one could stop me between the ages of 16 and 19.
How was prison?
I spent 8 years eleven months and twenty three days in prison. At first I loved it, it was like a holiday camp. I’d get out and want to go back in. I became institutionalised. But when I was 23, I met another prisoner who really cared for me, he spent time helping me control my temper. He saved me in many ways. I got to an open prison because of the improvement that I’d made. I came out when I was 25 with a clear mind. I’ve been out for thirteen months now.
How did you find out about abob?
I knew Chris Smith, who had been through the abob programme and had become a youth worker. He was doing what he wanted to do. I saw what massive steps he’d made and I wanted to do that too.
What did you get out of doing the rites of passage weekend?
I thought I knew myself before I did that. I was arrogant. I thought I knew everything. I really let go during this time. I’d been holding on to a lot of anger from the past. That’s why I’d kept on fighting. My mum had never seen me cry before but I arrived at her house afterwards crying. I felt so much more at peace after that weekend. It was as though a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I also wanted to help others keep out of trouble and be involved with abob. I was supported by some brilliant men. We are a community. I was mentored for 13 weeks by a great guy called Dave. Afterwards there was a spring in my step. He helped me stay positive when employers rejected me because of my background.
And what about Chloe?
She’s been amazing, a fantastic support always. She has kept me motivated. She’s pregnant now with our child and we’re so excited. I know I was very selfish when I first met her but I have changed, I help her now, I’m looking after her three year old, Peyton, today which I love doing. Abob have helped me consider others not just myself.
What about work?
I’ve been working as a forklift truck driver for money but I have other aspirations. I want to do something meaningful, I want a ladder to climb. I want to be a youth worker.
Janette Barrett, Kyren’s mother
What differences have you noticed in Kyren since he became involved in abob?
He’s calmer, happier, more interested in things, he’s much more considerate. I didn’t visit him when he was in prison because I didn’t want him to think that I condoned what he had done. It wasn’t okay by me so that was my punishment. I talked to him on the phone though. Towards me he’s always been respectful, but now he’s respectful to everyone. And he can see a future now. He has goals in his life. He really has happiness in his heart, I hear it when he talks. He also wants to help others in the same situation.
Kryen said he cried for the first time in front of you when he’d done BTH.
He was crying with happiness, and I cried with him. I told him how proud I was of him, and I continue to do that. I was always proud of him but this pride is different, it’s much bigger.
He is No 3 of eight children?
Yes, I feel so rich in that way. I may not earn much money at Tesco’s but I feel so rich because of the closeness for my children. They don’t hold grudges.
What are you proud of?
How hard he tries to get work, and how he’s providing for his family and how over the moon he is, that he has a baby on the way. He never wanted kids but he’s grown up now and is so excited. And he’s being very responsible about caring for his pregnant girlfriend and her three 3 year old daughter, Caitlin.
What is the aBoB effect?
I think he’d be back in prison without them. They enabled him to keep on going with trying to get work and have supported him with a much more positive perspective on life. It’s so hard being on probation, I think he would have rebelled and been sent back. I couldn’t give him what aBoB gave him. They gave him commitment, awareness and social conscious. He’s great at working in a team now and wants to give back to others. Thanks to aBoB, I have a son in my life. When I went to see him do his Passing Out ceremony, I told them all how thankful I am for the existence of aBoB and how I would recommend it to anyone coming out of prison.
Chloe Heather – Kyren Barrett’s partner, 26
How long have you two been together?
We’ve just celebrated our first year’s anniversary. Four days after I met him, he was sentenced to another stretch in prison. We met through his cousin. We had a great time together then everything went quiet. I thought he wasn’t interested in being friends but eventually he wrote to me and told me what had happened. He was in Lewes, then Rochester. I used to save up and visit him. And we used to write old-fashioned letters to one another. It was a friendship. I did have a secret crush on him but I didn’t mention it. After all I’m a mum and I didn’t want to get involved with someone in prison. But when he got out, we went out for lunch and he asked me to be his girlfriend. I told him I’d waited a long time to hear that. We just took our relationship one day at a time.
What was Kyren like before he got involved with abob?
He was lovely and he was great with my daughter but he was also selfish. He’d play his games while I washed up or cooked. He didn’t think about his actions before he did them, his attitude was – I’ve got nothing to lose. Also he used to sink into negativity. He’d have a knock back around not getting work because of his past and he’d just do nothing for weeks. He couldn’t let go of those kind of situations.
How did he find out about abob?
Through a friend. The effect on him of being involved and doing BTH has been mind-blowing. It’s incredible how a group of blokes getting together can have such a positive effect. He’s come a long way with them. He hasn’t gone back to prison, and he focuses on helping others too. It’s had a massive effect on our relationship too. Before he didn’t have a romantic bone in his body, he was late with my birthday card, had to borrow money for a present but when it came to our first anniversary, he was great. He bought flowers, booked a meal and couldn’t have been more lovey dovey. He helps me as well these days. He’ll cook and help me with the housework. And he’s much more appreciative of me. Abob helped him see the bigger picture. Abob have also helped him become more positive about the knock backs. That’s been a big help.”