A homeless teenager from Telford is looking forward to a future he didn't know existed, following an amazing journey with the National Citizen Service (NCS).
Zach Finn has made a host of new friends and developed a huge sense of self-confidence, following a season of NCS activities, powered by APM. He's one of more than 200,000 young people to have said "yes" to NCS, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for 15-17 year olds.
The teenager is now looking forward to continuing his involvement in the programme, through a graduate volunteering placement.
It is a far cry from just a few short months ago when Zach found himself homeless following a row with his parents. With support from a local charity, he was granted shared living space with other homeless young people in the area, but had to move three times in a six-month period.
"We first met Zach through a local college, where he had continued with his studies despite the lack of stability at home," explains Jemma Knight from APM's delivery team. "He wasn't particularly talkative or enthusiastic about NCS, but signed up to the programme using an available bursary."
Contact proved difficult, as Zach had no internet access and was reluctant to answer telephone calls. Even when APM's NCS team established communication via a warm introductory text message, Zach was still apprehensive about taking a fearful step into the un-known by attending a programme alongside people he had never met before.
Jemma recalls: "We wanted to give Zach the best possible chance of attending, so arranged to meet with him separately to talk through any concerns.
"Although he was reassured enough to attend, he was still extremely shy on departure day, sitting on his own with his headphones on. By the end of week one it was a completely different story - he had become one of the key characters in the group, laughing, joking and supporting his peers."
In fact, Zach had developed so much in such a short space of time, that he organized the entire group in support of a member of his team with a disability. He encouraged her physically, supported her through her activities and even cleaned her wheelchair before returning home.
"I learned so much through NCS," says Zach. "I couldn't wait to get back to see all of my new friends again. I loved learning new skills that feeling of being part of a team that would listen to me and take on some of my ideas. I never thought I'd be able to do that!"
Zach has recommended NCS to all of the young people he shares a house with and is returning to the programme to support NCS-led local community projects.