Living Well staff meet up with JLS

JLS Boost Young Mums and Dads Battling to Change Their Lives.
Nadine Linge. Published by Daily Star 21 September 2011.

The big-hearted boy band JLS were taking time out of their hectic schedule to visit a centre aiming to get young mums and dads on the right path, and give teens a place to go for advice.

So far, the caring foursome, Aston Merrygold, 23, Marvin Humes, 26, JB Gill, 24, and Oritse Williams, 24, have raised close to £250,000 for their JLS Foundation, which gives money to sexual health charities.

That’s come from sales of their Durex condoms and a £100,000 anniversary donation from the condom maker.

Now one year on from the launch of the condoms, the lads headed to the Lancaster Road Youth Club, west London, to see the kind of youngsters their charity has been helping.

First up, they meet young mums Emily Mailes, 23, Laura Pham, 24 and Jamie Prentice, 21, all from the Ladbroke Grove area of west London.

After falling pregnant as teenagers, it would have been easy for them to give up and live on state handouts.

But instead, the inspiring trio have achieved more than they ever dreamed possible, and now devote their time to teaching youngsters about safe sex.

Emily, who has a six-year-old son called Luke and works for Living Well, a service which delivers sex education to teens, says: “It’s been difficult being a young mum. But Luke has given me a reason to make something of my life and have a career. Now I want to give something back, I want to be an inspiration to other young mums and someone they can ask for advice.

“Everyone sees the stereotype of young mums as girls who just want to live off benefits and not have to get a job.

“But I want to break that stereotype and I think I do.”

Laura has had a harder path than most after her partner died when she was pregnant with daughter Aaliyah, five, something which moves the JLS boys.

But she’s fought back from depression to make the best life possible for her girl.

“Being a young mum, you have to grow up very fast,” says Laura. “We’re young but we’ve been through a lot.

Having a kid when you’re a teenager is a life-changing thing. Girls like us are motivated because we’ve got a kid to look after. I want every moment to be productive and I will work extra hard because I need to provide for Aaliyah.

“I work for Living Well with Emily and when we have the JLS Durex condoms, we can reach young people we wouldn’t normally. Because JLS are on them, they are cool to have.”

Jamie, mother of Harley, four, and eight-month-old Jake, believes without being a mum, she would be making nothing of her life. She says: “Last week I started a job as a youth health ambassador.

“And already it’s the best job I ever had.

“If I didn’t have my kids I’d know I’d be going out, drinking and not doing anything for my future.”

All three can’t believe their luck at meeting the group.

“JLS are really cool,” beams Laura. “They have such a nice aura about them.”

The chart-toppers also pop in to say hello to Lanie Brown and Toni Liddle, 16, from Ladbroke Grove, who are making use of the free facilities at the youth club to write their CVs.

Toni says: “It’s great because we can come to use the computers and try to get jobs.”

Next in the queue to meet the boys is brave Ben Phillips, 23, who tells them about his ill two-year-old son Alfie.

The tot suffers from the condition sacral agenesis, which means his lower limbs did not develop in the womb and he might never walk.

But despite his tough life caring for Alfie, Ben, from Ladbroke Grove, still devotes himself to working with youngsters having a hard time.

He says: “Being a dad gave me a focus and I’m determined to give my son a happy, stable life. I’m a youth health ambassador, helping people with issues like sexual health. They come to us for advice and we try to give them some direction in life.”

Next up to meet the lads is Jerome Williams, 27. He runs football sessions at the club for youngsters aged between 13 and 19 and has his own five-year-old, Jermone Jr.

He says: “It’s good JLS are getting involved, young people often don’t have good role models, and choose the wrong people to look up to.”

After meeting the young people, JLS are impressed with how they’ve coped. Oritse says: “It’s been really good to come here and spend time with great young people who are working really hard. It’s really touching and inspiring. I grew up in this area so it makes it even more special to me.

“We’ve talked a lot about what we want to do with our charity, so it’s good to come here and see the kind of people we can help.”

Marvin adds: “It’s a very humbling experience to meet these young people.They lead by example and that’s what we want to do.

“People feel they have the confidence to talk to us about safe sex and don’t feel shy because we’ve made this our cause. They know we know what we’re talking about.”

Camillo Pane, of Durex, says: “We are very pleased and proud to be working with JLS.”

Emily and Laura are aiming to become the first mums to take their children on a Duke of Edinburgh Gold expedition. To help them raise the money they need or see how they get on, check out changetogether.co.uk.

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