A TEENAGER has turned his life around thanks to a Henley youth and community group.
Hagen Cartar, 16, has been employed as an apprentice chef at the Henley Brew House pub after being given help and guidance by Nomad, a charity based at the d:two centre in Market Place.
He became involved with drugs and was kicked out of his mother’s house and expelled from Gillotts School after he got into trouble in the year following his father’s death.
Hagen was arrested by the police twice, once for his part in a car crash involving a stolen vehicle. But now he has changed his ways.
He stopped taking drugs last summer and became involved with a new group of friends. With help from Nomad, he was able to sit his GCSEs earlier this year.
When the job at the pub became available, he was advised on how to prepare his CV.
Hagen said: “The next day I went in for a trial shift and I’ve worked every single day since.
“I came in the pub and I left with a full-time job. I was almost screaming because I was so happy when I left. It’s my first proper job and I like being here.
“I have always had to cook for myself. I used to make soup and beans on toast because my mum never cooked for me.
“Although I didn’t have chefing in mind until I came here, now it seems like one of the best things to do.”
Hagen has started a two-year training course to be a chef. So far, he has learnt how to make fishcakes, black pudding, ravioli and Scotch eggs.
He currently lives with Nomad manager Sue Prior and her husband, Dave, but he hopes to rebuild his relationship with his mother.
Hagen said: “I was genuinely a good guy until my dad died. I was doing well in school but it all went down the drain.
“Now I am on my feet again but I want to rebuild my reputation in the town. For a year I was big on drugs, doing nasty things, but that’s well in the past now. I still want to move back in with my mum and I’m trying to build a relationship with her.”
Hagen thanked Nomad, saying: “They sorted stuff out for me, clothed me, fed me and did everything for me. I honestly don’t think I’d be alive if it wasn’t for them, I’d have been sleeping in the street.
“Most of the kids I know are involved with Nomad. It’s nice to know somebody cares.”
Sacha Henry, the pub’s head chef, said Hagen was progressing well in the kitchen. “You could pretty much tell straight away when he came in that he wanted to learn,” said Mr Henry. “He brings a bit of energy into the kitchen and he’s like a project for us.”