A man who was told he was unlikely to live beyond the age of 15 has been presented with a prestigious award after making strides in his career.
Andrew Wakefield, 27, from Houghton, has won the North East Homesense Young Achiever award at The Prince’s Trust Awards.
The cystic fibrosis sufferer was presented with the award at the North East ceremony at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle this week.
In a video shared by the trust, Andrew is seen as he is told the emotional news that his fight to prove himself had made him a winner.
Andrew said: “Back then my cystic fibrosis felt like a death warrant.
“I had to take loads of time off school for treatment and got told I’d never amount to anything.
Winning the Young Achiever award feels incredible.Andrew Wakefield
“But I got to college and worked for my uncle in his car body repair shop until my mam got breast cancer, just after dad died from bowel cancer. I left to look after her.”
Shortly after his mother beat cancer, Andrew contracted pneumonia and was hospitalised.
“It took a year for me to get better.
“Five months after I started back at work, the business nose-dived and I had to sign on at the job centre,” he added.
“They said no-one would employ me because of my condition – I wanted to prove them wrong, but got sick again and spent a long time in hospital.”
Andrew remained determined.
When he was discharged, he began participating in a number of training courses and, after seeing a documentary about The Prince’s Trust, he joined the Get into Retail programme – delivered in partnership with Marks and Spencer.
The programme, Make Your Mark, gives unemployed young people the skills they need to secure work in the industry.
He said: “Make Your Mark wasn’t like other training courses I’d been on.
“It gave me a sense of achievement and let me prove that I could work, and work well.”
When the course ended, Andrew was offered a temporary job with Marks and Spencer, and within six weeks, he had applied for a permanent job at the store and beat five other applicants in securing it.
“The Prince’s Trust and Marks and Spencer didn’t label me by my condition, they gave me a chance and now I work at Marks and Spencer permanently.
“I earn enough to support me and my mam and I’ve even been able to buy my first car.”