A FORMER troublesome teenager has pledged to help youngsters turn their lives around on a Burnley housing estate.
As a teenager Jemma Harrower was cautioned by police for smashing church windows and she also took drink and drugs.
Now aged 27, she is a full-time youth worker on the Stoops estate where she helps transform the lives of young people and their families.
Employed by the Burnley Methodist Circuit, she is determined to guide the young people away from the sort of lifestyle that wrecked her teenage years.
Jemma, who is originally from Stirling, Scotland, said: “I was in my 20s and realised that I wasn’t doing myself any favours by following the lifestyle I was involved in.
“I became a Christian and suddenly everything was different.
“Now I want to help young people discover that they can make something of their lives.
“Many have no self-esteem and do not think they can achieve.
“Slowly many are beginning to change that mindset and are becoming more responsible — and enjoying life more as a result.”
She has worked on the sprawling estate, which hit the national headlines in 1992 when rioting broke out, for the past 18 months.
And with 18 months left on her contract with the church she is hoping that it will be extended.
“I love it in Burnley and on the estate. I feel at home. The problems the young face here are very similar to those in my home town in Scotland – lack of work, and all its associated problems,” she said.
Jemma was introduced to the church in Burnley when she was studying at Caperwray Bible College near Lancaster. She did a student placement in Burnley and was invited to work at the church when her studies finished.
Now she runs a children’s club, a youth club, and a family night when parents go the Stoops Parkside Methodist Church.
She also spends a lot of time encouraging parents, and playing football – one of her lifelong passions – with the children on a local recreation ground.
Jemma also visits local schools to lead assemblies, lunch clubs, and RE lessons and helps at a breakfast club.
And as if that workload were not enough, she is chaplain to students at Burnley College.