Age Concern Luton volunteer Edwin Muraya is one of the charity’s shining stars.
He’s adored by the senior citizens who attend its regular Monday lunch club, is a firm favourite with office staff and an absolute role model for anyone who’s ever faced – and overcome – adversity.
For Edwin, 44, has beaten his demons and turned his life around.
The former alcoholic says it’s thanks to the the wonderful old people he meets every week that he’s now able to embrace a future full of promise and opportunity.
“Several years ago, I’d never have believed I could be where I am today,” he admits. “I’m a month into a health and social care degree course at uni, I love my voluntary work at Age Concern Luton and I’m about to go skydiving – my second charity challenge – to thank them for giving me another chance.”
Edwin, who was born in Edinburgh but raised in Kenya, returned to the UK after his father developed a drinking problem. The family broke up and his mother died soon afterwards.
“I was left to make my own decisions– and most of them were bad,” he says in retrospect. “I lost a couple of jobs because I started drinking, and it began affecting me mentally. I was suffering seizures, pretending I was out looking for a job, hiding bottles.
“My wife had been gone a week before I even realised she was missing. There were so many empty promises.
“I tried detox but never followed it up with rehab – I thought that was just a waste of time.”
It was only when he went to Hope House, a project aimed at helping drink and drug addicts, that he realised the importance of changing his routines.
Voluntary work was suggested but when Age Concern Luton said they’d need to check his criminal record, Edwin thought his dreams of a new start would be dashed.
“I was constantly in prison for offences like shoplifting and being drunk and disorderly,” he says. “But they said it didn’t matter because there was nothing like GBH, just stuff that supported my habit.”
So Edwin went to help in the kitchen peeling potatoes and serving meals. “It grew on me,” he smiles. “It wasn’t long before I knew all the old people’s names, how many sugars they had in their tea. They became my really good friends.
“Age Concern Luton embraced me. They supported me, they kept me away from the streets. They’re like my own little family.
“I feel I’m heading the right way. The door is open and there are only positive things ahead.”
> Support Edwin’s skydive at www.virginmoneygiving.com/EdwinMuraya