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Personal Stories: Work helped me grow up and make new friends

Stacey Simpson on how Barnardo's changed her life

Stacey Simpson (23) joined Dr B's Kitchen - a restaurant in Belfast city centre that trains young people with learning difficulties for a career in the hospitality industry - when she was 16.

She gained an NVQ Level 2 in hospitality, City and Guilds essential skills in English and maths, and certificates in food safety and basic hygiene.

Stacey (above) said: "As well as learning about the job I made a lot of new friends with the other trainees and the staff, and I met my boyfriend Gerard - and we've been together for six years.

"While I was at Dr B's I moved into a flat on my own out of foster care and I had to grow up, but I think it was a good thing.

"The staff helped me so much because I didn't have anything.

"They helped me sort out a sofa and a bed and a meter for the electricity. I couldn't have done it without them."

Stacey secured a permanent part-time job at The Kitchen Bar and also volunteers with Dr B's.

"I had such a good time when I was here and am still really good friends with all the staff.

"At the beginning I didn't like them telling me what to do.

"But now I know they were only looking out for me and I want to provide the same support for other young people and show them they can do it on their own too."

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