By Amyn Ali, 22 June 2023

The writer is a former Leap training participant and now a freelance trainer at Leap. SBT has supported Leap since 2020

I left Glasgow when I was 18, with £5, two suitcases and a lot of regrets.

For some time, I’d felt an overwhelming need for change. Three years earlier, at 15, I left home and lived in supported accommodation in some of Glasgow’s less than favourable digs. Wherever I went, there was conflict – in my relationships and in myself. 

But I’ll come back to fill in some of the gaps in a bit. First, I want to tell you how and why my early life unravelled and how I got involved with Leap, an organisation that’s been instrumental in helping me turn things around. 

My life was emerging from upheaval when I first took part in a Leap session. I signed up for the session to help me acknowledge and manage the conflict that was contributing to this turbulence. A seemingly never-ending turbulence. 

I had just moved from Glasgow to Brighton but I had no idea where my life was going. For the previous 18 years I’d lived with my mum in Scotland. 

I was not the easiest person to bring up. There was a lot of conflict between me and mum. From as early as I can remember, I gave her hell. For a long time I destroyed our relationship. Despite all this, my mum is my hero. She is one of the strongest people I know. 

This conflict I had in myself, I didn’t really understand it. More than that, I wasn’t really aware of it. It’s just what was normal. Looking back I can see conflict as the destructive thread winding its way through my broken relationships. That is, unacknowledged and therefore unaddressed conflict. Now, I can see it all a lot clearer.  

Much of my inner conflict stemmed from my identity: Who I was becoming while trying to find a place in the world. As a Glaswegian of African and Afghan heritage, I found this a little tricky.  

I grew up in an area where conflict was everywhere. The streets around me were awash with drugs, alcohol and violence. I got caught up in the mess. In my early and mid-teens, I was living destructively. Drinking heavily became normal. I now see how this was my way of dealing with the environment so as I didn’t have to deal with myself. 

My spiral continued.

This is when I left home at 15 and lived in some dodgy places around Glasgow, until 18 when I made the move south to Brighton. Here, by the pebbly coast, I became homeless. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  

Living on the street forced me to reflect on my past. And though I would not for one second recommend becoming homeless, it allowed me to think about my behaviour and how I had been contributing to some of my problems. Crucially, too, it forced me to get my housing sorted. Once this was done, I started taking part in youth activities. I started exercising. I began to feel something resembling positivity in mind and body. 

It was around this time I heard about Leap from a mentor who suggested their conflict resolution course might help me. 

Initially on hearing about the charity, I thought I’d left all my conflict and problems behind in Glasgow. But I wanted to find out more so I went along to one of their introductory sessions. 

At the course, I was inspired by the authentic personality of the trainers and the honest rapport they built with myself and the other participants. The structure of the course allowed me to open up in a way I never had before; it allowed me to dissect some of my experiences that I’d kept locked away for too long. I realised that while all our conflicts are unique, there’s also a similarity to much of them. The human condition and all that. I found comfort and solidarity in this. 

That these sessions were conducted in an emotionally safe environment made a big difference. I could reflect and be honest with my peers. It was a catalyst to understanding myself better. Leap allowed me – encouraged me – to take a step away from conflict and into life. 

That first encounter with Leap also encouraged me to take a step towards working with them as a trainer. In time, that’s what I did. It was a great decision. 

I am now a freelance trainer with Leap, running sessions and helping young people learn how to navigate their way through conflict. I’ll often introduce my own experience as a way of building solidarity and trust, but also to offer hope that there is a path through the bad times. 

There is a type and tone of language we use at Leap that has helped me over the years. For instance, a Leap trainer will never ask anyone to do anything or reveal anything that they aren’t willing to do or reveal themselves. I have applied this approach in many parts of my life. It’s an approach I work on daily. 

Leap has helped me grow into a better person. My relationships are stronger and healthier because of Leap. I now hold myself accountable. 

Amyn has got into Calisthenics, a form of exercise that uses a person's body weight. He finds it a huge motivator, saying how it's helped him process things from his past and led to a greater sense of discipline and control in his life. 

The pain from my past is still there and the conflict that led to so much misery can’t be erased, but my relationship with my past and this pain has shifted from overwhelm to understanding. 

At Leap, we believe that conflict is inevitable. But what’s important is how we navigate and manage this conflict. And I am proud that I can now contribute to supporting young people and adults on their path to transforming hopelessness into hope. 

More on Leap here

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