Billy Brown, 23, volunteers for constituency offices, Cornwall.
How did you know about Abob?
I went to Active Plus, which helps people who are unemployed and they told me about abob. I then met up with Thurston and he told me all about their activities. Not that I really had a clue before the rites of passage weekend.
Tell me a bit about growing up?
It was good for a long time. But my mum got ill, my father left home and I developed some behavioural difficulties. I became aggressive. I had problems at school. I got into drugs and alcohol and sex.
What about your school life?
I started getting into fights. I was acting out basically. I was craving attention. I was 15 and I was very good at manipulating people. The thing is I am actually very intelligent and can pass exams easily. I actually managed to get all my GCSEs although I only attended school 13 percent of that year. The reason I got into trouble at school because of physical injury and mental health issues.
Did you go on to college?
I was doing Law, Psychology and Forensic Science A levels but I started getting behind because of depression and mental health reasons. One day I just got up and left. Ever since then, I’ve been unemployed.
Did you get into trouble with the police?
Once or twice but nothing serious.
How was the Quest for you?
It’s funny, I was expecting it to be really tough outdoor action but it was completely different. It was in the woods and I found a new serenity in nature while I was there. I’d never experienced that before. I had the most meaningful experience of my life while I was there.
For me, it was about a lot of self-discovery. I spent a lot of time on my own being introspective. It gave me a big opportunity to examine where I was at in life and the circumstances that led to me being unemployed for seven years. It was all the things I struggle with, combined with my dreams. It provided me with direction and clarity.
I thought I wouldn’t be able to sleep but I slept like a baby.
What did you take away with you?
A huge weight lifted from my shoulders and I started to understand myself better. I felt uplifted and light.
How was it being with all men?
It was really good to have men beside me. I felt secure. There was no judgement and I felt so accepted the way I was. It changed my relationship with people rather than men because I understood connection and how it feels to connect.
How was it with your mentor?
Thurston is great. We built a really good connection. The most important part to me was that I didn’t feel as though I was being talked down to. It felt as though we were equal. Like brothers. Sometimes, we go up to the site where I did The Quest and just sit together and talk. On another occasion, we went to the beach and ended up swimming. That was so good.
How are the weekly meetings for you?
I’ve been to every single one so that says something! Every week, I feel better afterwards. I value being able to share myself but also listening to others. I feel so safe with them, I’m able to speak my truth and work through uncomfortable feelings too.
What does your mother think now?
She came to the Homecoming ceremony and she’s very happy. She sees the changes in me. The difference in me is like night and day. I’m no longer depressed, I’m enjoying myself, I’m focused and I’m getting out and about more.
What would you like for yourself in the future?
I’ve always been interested in law and politics. I’m helping out at the local constituency offices at the moment. But what I really want to do is study law and become a lawyer. I’ve known this since I was 15. So I see myself going to the US to do this. In the meantime, I was to be as involved as I can with abob. I’m doing the facilitators’ training next.