Jake, 20 from Brighton, works in house removals
How did you know about abob?
Through my girlfriend, Lula. Her father, Mark, is in abob. We’ve been together for six years so I’d heard quite a lot about abob.
Tell me about your background?
I had a hard childhood. Basically, I was put into care when I was 8. I had seven siblings, and my stepfather gave my mum an ultimatum, him or me. She chose him and I don’t blame her, she had a lot of kids. I seemed like a troublemaker but I was just looking for attention. I needed my mum. My dad left as soon as he heard my mum was pregnant. So I spent many years in care and foster homes. I never felt that I fitted in, I was moved around.
What effect did this care system have on you?
I shut down all my feelings in order to survive. I couldn’t really connect to people properly. I loved Lula but I couldn’t really show it. She knew I loved her but she wanted more for me. I also had a problem with going out, I used to shut myself away with my Xbox. She suggested that I go to abob.
What was your first experience of abob?
I went to a Thursday meeting and found it totally weird, all these men talking about their feelings. I didn’t get it. I think I managed ‘I’m alright’ and that was it.
But I was intrigued.
What happened to you at the Quest?
It was without a doubt the most life-changing event for me. I felt so much better afterwards. I was put well outside my comfort zone but other men really supported me to express what I needed to express. I had no idea that men could be like this, or that I could be like this. That I could feel my feelings and express them.
When I got back home, I spoke in a way that I’d never spoken before to Lula. And I went on and on. I connected to her so much more. It was amazing. I’m still in that place now. I’m learning to be more and more aware of my feelings. Before I would respond to people with no emotion at all.
Another aspect that changed was trust. I distrusted everyone, and the men at abob got my trust. I was and am able to open up to them. That makes so much difference to my life. It means that I’m not so afraid of life.
How was your mentoring programme?
That felt very different to anything that had happened to me before. We went out for breakfast or to the beach. It was the first time in my life that I’d been like that with another man. I talked in a completely different way.
How do you feel about the weekly meetings now?
I go as much as I can. I’m a different person, I go there and express myself and listen to other men. Now I know I am not doing this for Lula but for myself. And to serve other men. One of the things that really impressed me about the abob men is that they are volunteers, that made me really trust that they are doing it from kindness alone.
Have you been back to staff The Quest?
Yes, I did it a few weeks ago and seeing other men do their work is so moving and inspiring all over again. I felt honoured to serve them.
What do you think about abob?
I know people in the care system who have had such terrible things happen to them. I think having something like abob at a younger age would really help. It should be part of the school curriculum, learning what your feelings are. And also having people to talk to, about their feelings.