Press release posted 22 December 2023
6 years ago, Paul Kamara was homeless and living rough in Manchester when a kind family from Gambia invited him to share Christmas Day in their Gorton home.
Through sheer determination and optimism, Paul, age 46, turned his life around, gaining a big break with a job at Manchester’s internationally acclaimed cancer centre, The Christie.
He now has his own home in Stalybridge and is looking forward to celebrating Christmas this year with his 2 children and his sister.
Paul had been homeless for 20 months after losing his job in security at Manchester Airport in 2016, followed by a relationship breakdown with his partner, who asked him to move out of their home.
He spent time sofa-surfing with various friends but never wanted to overstay his welcome and eventually found himself living rough on the streets for several months.
But Paul was determined to bounce back from this adversity. He visited the Job Centre, and they recommended a 4-week health and social care course at Trafford College.
The course enabled him to apply for a voluntary clerical role at The Christie, which he secured in October 2018, supporting the admin and secretarial team. He also helped the patient transport team, arranging to get patients home after their treatment.
Through demonstrating his talent and will to succeed in the voluntary role, Paul was offered paid employment at The Christie as a clerical officer with the clinical oncology team, helping to process patient appointments and provide clinical notes.
Since joining The Christie 5 years ago, Paul has proved to be a reliable and hard-working colleague, showing a passion for taking up the learning and development opportunities provided. As a result, he won the ‘Learner of the Year’ award at The Christie Staff Awards in 2019. Being presented with his certificate by the former Coronation Street star, Victoria Ekanoye, was one of Paul’s proudest moments.
“Winning the Learner of the Year award was a big deal for me”, he said. “It now has pride of place in my home next to the TV. If you want to grow as a person, you must be willing to learn new things.”
Paul has been promoted twice since joining The Christie and now works as a patient pathway tracker in the performance team.
When he first started at The Christie, Paul was still in temporary accommodation in Gorton, but in September 2020, he successfully secured a housing association flat from Onward Homes in Stalybridge.
“I hope my story shows how hard work and perseverance can pay off,” says Paul. “After I lost my job, I lost my home and lived on the streets. I am incredibly proud to have turned my life around since then and hugely grateful to The Christie for giving me the break I needed and believing in me.
“Now that I have a stable home again, I see my kids regularly at the weekends and am really looking forward to being with them over Christmas. I’m very optimistic about my future.
“Looking back on where I was 6 years ago compared with now, it feels like a lifetime ago, and so much has happened in between. I lost my mother recently and my brother."
Paul’s message to anyone who finds themselves homeless is to always keep your head up. “You need to have hope,” he says. “And also keep focused on getting your life back on track. Avoid getting caught up in drinking or drugs. Keep pushing yourself to improve and push through the barriers and adversity you might suffer. I hope my story can inspire others who find themselves homeless.”
Paul relishes working at The Christie and finds it a very rewarding place. “There is a great atmosphere, and everyone is really friendly,” says Paul. “Seeing how much of a difference The Christie makes to people is so rewarding. I’m proud of the life-saving and life-changing work The Christie does.”
Looking to the future, Paul hopes to further his learning. “I want to do a part-time master’s in public administration in the next couple of years and hope to get the funding or at least a loan. Doing a master’s degree should help me to progress in my career.”
Andy Gibson, head of performance at The Christie, said: “Paul’s story is truly inspiring, and he is a valued member of my team. He has shown so much resilience to get through being homeless, and his optimism in life shines through.
“As a major employer in Manchester, The Christie takes its social responsibilities to the community seriously, and supporting Paul to get back on his feet shows how important this is. I hope Paul has a wonderful Christmas this year.”
In his spare time, Paul visits the gym 3 or 4 times a week, plays badminton, and recently got into reading.