Persha Ward is living proof that a positive attitude and specialist support from Safe and Sound can enable young people with experience of child exploitation to move forward with their lives.

Persha, who is now aged 24, was referred to Safe and Sound when she was 13 and in a downward spiral of exploitation at the hands of a group of older men.

She said: “When I first started working with Safe and Sound I was very vulnerable.  I was blind to the fact that the relationships I had were toxic and that I was being groomed and exploited by people who did not care about me at all.

“The support I had from Safe and Sound was amazing. They helped to open my eyes to what was going on, taught me to respect myself and gave me the support and strength to realise that I deserved better.

“As well as lots of one-to-one and group activities, I had some incredible opportunities to be involved in training and consultation with all sorts of professionals at local and national levels – talking about my experiences and giving a young person’s view on services.

“This really helped me to build my self confidence and know my worth which has been invaluable in both my private and working life.”

After school, Persha went onto train in Business Administration and worked in sales in between having her two children.

Adamant that she needed the flexibility to be a good mum, she set up her own business, S&A Management, last year and now offers clients an extra pair of hands in whatever administration and business support they require.

“I have been determined that my experiences as a teenager would not define my whole life.  When I was 13 I didn’t think I was worth anything and certainly would not have thought that I could have gone onto have two wonderful children and my own business.

“Those days were a chapter in my life and now I have turned that page.

“My message to young people – whatever their experiences – is therefore to listen to the people who can help – which in my case was Safe and Sound.

“It is important to remember that, however dreadful things feels today, it is not the end of the world and that there is always the chance to build a good life.”