Rebecca’s Story

By the time she was 14, Rebecca had lived in 16 different homes and was caring for two siblings with special needs. Rebecca’s family were often homeless and, by her early teenage years, Rebecca had got used to surviving without basic provisions – sometimes going days on end without a proper meal. A few years later, Rebecca’s parents abandoned her altogether.

Rebecca says that Norwood was always been involved with her care “behind the scenes”, but she first became aware of the organisation around the age of nine, when she took art therapy classes the charity had run at her primary school. She says that these classes were a way of “getting me to open up about my personal and home life”.

When Rebecca’s parents abandoned her, Norwood was ready to step in through in-house social worker Alex Amzallag, who Rebecca credits with “saving me” from the most distressing of circumstances. Norwood was able to arrange for Rebecca to live with her aunt and uncle until the age of 18. Rebecca also had regular counselling sessions with Alex right up to the end of school.

Rebecca says of her sessions with Alex: “My counselling with Alex happened weekly while I was in school. The actual sessions consisted of an art-based activity. You wouldn’t really think a person that age would want to paint, play with modelling clay, decorate a box or make a dreamcatcher, but I loved it. I was having a chance to express myself and play in a way I was never able to as a young child. The art activities focussed around talking about what had happened when I was younger and my feelings towards it, especially focussing on being abandoned and all the complex feeling that comes with that.

“As I was abandoned mid-GCSEs, my sessions with Alex also focussed on helping me concentrate at school. My personal life was very unstable as I came to terms with how poorly I was treated as a child as well as being abandoned by the people who were supposed to love me the most. The sessions with Alex helped me so much. Without Alex’s support, I wouldn’t have done well and stayed at school. She ensured that no matter how many obstacles I had been through and was continuing to go through, I would always try to meet my full potential.”

The relationship with Alex and Norwood led to Rebecca turning her life around and, incredibly from the position she was in as a teenager, in 2013 she was able to go to the University of Leeds to study for an integrated master’s degree in chemistry. Norwood supported her by providing funds for university provisions, as well as putting her in touch with other charities that deal specifically with funding for further education.

Having now completed her course and achieving a first class MsC and BsC, Rebecca is looking to the future and hopes to inspire others who endure troubled childhoods to achieve their potential, as well as working hard to encourage more young women to study and take up careers in the sciences.

Rebecca says: “I really want to help people to understand that just because you’ve had an unstable start in life, that doesn’t have to define you and you can still go on to succeed. The support I’ve had from Norwood has made all the difference to me. Knowing that there are donors who give money they’ve worked so hard for so that people like me can succeed has meant the world to me. Knowing that people have that faith in me has driven me to the success I am enjoying, and I want others to know that they can achieve their goals too with this amazing support network. Nothing can make up for not having a supportive family, but Norwood have come as close as anyone could.”

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