“I first came to Extern when I was about 14 or 15 years old. I have social anxiety, so being in a mainstream school where I didn’t feel comfortable was no good for me, and my attendance was very poor.

I was depressed and never left the house. I can’t remember any of my teenage years because they were all spent in my bedroom watching television. I never went out and made friends, which is so important when you’re that age. I had anxiety attacks every day, my mum had to end up coming out of work to look after me while I wasn’t in school.

But right away I felt comfortable with the Extern staff. At school I was seen as a troubled girl who couldn’t be helped, whereas the guys at Extern actually sat down and got to know me.

Extern gave so much to me, so I wanted to give back to them, and that’s why I now work as a peer mentor with the Moving Forward, Moving On project in Belfast. I have so much experience behind me now, and I want to share that with other young people.

When you work with Extern, you’re investing in yourself. You are guided in the right direction, and they never, ever give up on you. So, I will always have a place in my heart for them and the great work that they do.”

Alex Pelan, Peer Mentor, MFMO