Former drug user talks to young people in Leigh Park

  • Former drug user gives advice in Leigh Park about avoiding gang culture
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HE’S been to prison 15 times and stared death in the face with his destructive drug addiction.

But Paul Hannaford is a reformed man – and is now spreading the word to young people to avoid getting into drugs, alcohol, knives and gangs.

The 46-year-old dad-of-one gave a hard-hitting talk to young people at Leigh Park Community Centre yesterday and had his audience captivated with his emotional story of hitting rock bottom and bouncing back to find his true self.

Earlier in the day he spoke to hundreds of pupils at Havant Academy and Park Community School.

Now sober for eight and a half years, Paul travels the country talking to young people and believes far more education is needed in schools to prevent children following the wrong path.

‘It’s my job to make sure no kids wake up in a prison cell or crack den,’ said Paul, from London, who has 12 blood clots in his legs from all the injections he used to take.

Naomi Cairns, 14, from Drayton, Bekki Dunn, 16, from Winchester, Paul Hannaford and Emilly Briggs, 14, from Leigh Park

Naomi Cairns, 14, from Drayton, Bekki Dunn, 16, from Winchester, Paul Hannaford and Emilly Briggs, 14, from Leigh Park

‘What’s more important – their academic development or their personal well-being?

‘Why is knife crime at an all time high?

‘Why are there drugs everywhere? There’s a total lack of early intervention.

‘Hopefully we can wake up people who work with kids.’

The day was organised by Big World Impact, a charity based in Leigh Park aiming to inspire children into making the right choices in life.

Emilly Briggs, 14, from Leigh Park, who sits on the Leigh Park Youth Forum for Big World Impact, told The News: ‘It was really good.

‘It’s good to know what happens because I have seen it in a friend.’

Naomi Cairns, 14, from Drayton, said: ‘It was the best talk I have ever seen.

‘It’s been emotional. It’s put me off (drugs) even more.’

Bekki Dunn, 16, from Winchester, sits on the Youth Commission for the Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Hayes.

She said: ‘It was really eye-opening into the danger of drugs.

‘At school normally we are told by someone with no experience.

‘He really does know what he’s talking about. We can trust that.’

Julian Wadsworth, community engagement manager for Big World Impact, said: ‘The benefit of us bringing Paul down is this is a true-life story.

‘Young people can associate with his story which is both quite horrific, tragic, but also positive in the way he has turned his life around.’