Ricky Hill and mentor Darren Macdonald
Ricky Hill, 23, scaffolder, Crawley and now Suffolk
How did you know about Abob?
I’d been in prison because I was getting into trouble, I was still getting into trouble but I was in a hostel. Abob came into the foyer to pick one of the other young men up and they saw me and spoke to me about The Quest. I went but I was still not convinced and reluctant.
How was the Quest?
On the Friday evening, I wasn’t taking it seriously – all my mates were there, we were joking around. On the Saturday, that atmosphere changed. I can safely say that I’d never been anywhere like this, or experienced anything like it. I started to understand myself and look at what had happened to me. That was a revelation.
What did you find out about yourself?
I discovered that it’s always better to have a re-think and re-evaluate before acting, I also found out about being able to look to the future and not dwell on the past. I understood friendship and commitment so much more. And I found Darren as my mentor; he was the first person that I was really able to open up to. The Quest unlocked something inside me. Hearing other young men’s stories also started to connect me into others. It was a mind-blowing experience.
Tell me a bit about your background.
Basically Crawley is not a great place to grow up. I was angry a lot and my mum got that. I got into trouble at school and then got thrown out. In the end, I was so awful in terms of behavior that my mum kicked me out. That’s when serious crime started. I was homeless. I was 16. I was stealing cars and from cars. I got arrested and pleaded guilty to 59 car thefts and went to prison.
What happened when you came out of prison?
I started selling drugs. Then abob got involved. I’d messed up a lot including a course in tree surgery so I decided at that point that enough is enough.
How did you find Darren?
He started being my mentor on the Quest weekend. He was fantastic. We got along really well. Even now I speak to him all the time. We became friends straight away.
Then we met up every Wednesday, we’d have a chat and something to eat. I’d tell him what was going on for me. He is a brilliant listener. I’d never had that before. It made all the difference. He was the best person to come into my life.
Was your father around when you were growing up?
No. I didn’t experience a father figure. Darren was there for me in a way that my father had never been able to be. My actual father always let me down as a boy, Darren never let me down. That was invaluable.
You’ve got a daughter now?
Yes, she’s nine months old and my partner and I moved up here to Suffolk so that I wouldn’t be in that old community around drugs. Even being up here, 3 years after my Quest ended, abob have still supported me. In fact at one point, abob helped me out with a court case. They supported me and I got a suspended sentence. Then I got a job as a scaffolder.
How are you getting on with your mum now?
Much better and I’m getting on well with my younger sister, that feels good.
How do you see your future?
I see it as so much better. I understand and connect to people so much better now. My values have changed now. I want to make the world a better place to live in – for me and others.