When Ajani arrived at Evolve at the end of 2021, Covid-19 was still a big part of everyday life.
“It was strange coming to a new environment, integrating with a new crowd and getting used to new surroundings at that time. I met all the staff quite quickly, in just one or two weeks, but it took longer to meet other people staying here.
I heard about Evolve through the council. Before that I wasn’t living in any one place – I was lucky enough to stay on my sister’s sofa at times, but I didn’t have a set residence. It already feels like a long time ago and such a different time.”
A lot has happened in the eighteen months since, and a lot has changed.
“Mentally, where I am now is so different to where I was then. Although it doesn’t feel like what you normally imagine when you say ‘home’, I have made it my home; at least, as much as you can in a building full of other people. It feels safe, and it was a pleasant surprise to find out all the amenities and opportunities they offer.
When I moved here, I already had goals that I wanted to achieve. That included starting a job – but not just anything, something I was happy in and saw a future with. I made a list of things I was interested in, and what was possible based on my experience and qualifications. Then, not long ago, I started a new role as an apprentice accountant.
I am quite a self-motivated person, I found this job and went through the process pretty much by myself. But the staff were supportive throughout my search, helping me stay on the ball with applications.”
Although there have been big successes, there have been challenges as well, including health issues he has had to content with.
“I had problems with my knees before, but it got worse at the start of 2022. They think it’s patella alta, which causes a lot of pain and restricts your movement. I spent a lot of last year dealing with that and doing physio. Covid had prepared me a bit for being stuck inside, but it was still hard. I like to do things – get outside and enjoy the scenery and nature. Sometimes though, the choice was between excruciating pain and staying inside and resting. So I made peace with that.
I couldn’t have been more comfortable, and everyone here really helped, but it was still tough. I like to be independent, so I had to deal with it while also trying to preserve my independence and do as much as I could. The team here understood that. They would bring a lot of things to my door and help me out, but they also knew I wanted to move around and look after myself. I can’t really fault them for how they were in that time.”
Despite these issues Ajani has stayed positive. He is also quick to point out that challenges come in different forms.
“There were always people here, staff would ring me all the time and come and see me when they could. I wasn’t easy but it could have been much worse. Getting out once every few weeks helped me maintain my sanity – I would get a taxi to go see friends and family.
I’ve had physical issues to overcome, but that doesn’t mean my stay has been more difficult than anyone else, just more visible. Other people are dealing with more mental struggles, which are hard in other ways.
My five-year plan is to become a chartered accountant. I want to build my experience and knowledge and keep getting qualified. I would like to live close to where I am now, because I can literally walk to work. If I’m lucky enough, then I’ll find something. I still don’t have certainty around my mobility, but I am walking every day and doing everything I can. I want to keep going forward in life.”