No-one loves a happy ending more than I do, and if it involves a bit of romance then even better!

This is exactly the experience I’ve had recently when one of our NCS session workers, Keenene, announced his engagement to Misha, another of our NCS session workers. Every engagement is a happy event worth celebrating – and of course engagements are beginnings rather than an ending – but where Keenene is concerned, and I recall the angry, disengaged young boy who first came to us at Brathay, his engagement marks a happy ending for me.

But first for the romance: Keenene met Misha when they were participants on the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme in 2013. They were part of the NCS Graduates who all continued to meet at our Brathay centre in Bradford. Their friendship blossomed and in 2016 Misha became pregnant with their son Casen, now 2. They are expecting their second baby in December and the couple, who are amazing parents, have just bought their first home together.

Apparently Misha didn’t know anything about the proposal. Keenene arranged to take her out for the day and they headed for the Lake District, a familiar journey for both of them having attended residential courses at our centre in Ambleside. Misha may have recognised some of the route but she had no idea they were returning to Brathay. She got a huge surprise as Keenene drove them onto the Brathay Hall estate; collected the keys for one of our finest lodges, and walked her down to our lakeside jetty to propose.

It doesn’t get more romantic than that. Misha was quick to accept and the two of them had a fun time reminiscing around the grounds of Brathay, spotting themselves in photographs used on publicity material dotted around the site. It was, for a young man who nursed his own mother from the age 8 and ended up in full-time care at 13, a momentous step and everyone at Brathay is thrilled to think that he chose Brathay Hall as his ‘safe place’ for what was no doubt one of the most memorable moments of his life.

Many of us have seen Keenene grow and mature over the years. When he came to us as a child full of hate on our Going Places programme he was unhappy, lonely and at odds with the world. By sticking with us, and taking such a huge part in NCS, he has found the resilience to grasp every opportunity he can. Yes, we have helped and supported him along the way, but the real impetus, and the real change, has come from him.

Keenene has always been passionate about helping others in similar situations and he now works as a Residential Support Worker in crisis and intervention. It’s tricky work, involving supporting children and young people that no other placements will take and helping them to make choices and turn their lives around. So a worthy role model in so many ways – as well as a hard worker and a great dad. And now to be a husband too. Congratulations Keenene and Misha. For you this is just the beginning, and I wish you both all the happiness you deserve!