Addict’s transformation saves others

�A former heroin addict from Havering has turned his life around so completely that he’s now in demand from TV crews and top football clubs, after educating 65,000 children about the dangers of drugs.

Until eight years ago Paul Hannaford, 42, who grew up in Hornchurch, was feeding a �1,000-a-week heroin habit.

Turning to a life of crime to fund the addiction saw him sent to prison 15 times, as well as coming close to death more than once from the effect of the drugs.

He first tried drugs in his early teens and then heroin at the age of 19.

In 2009 The Recorder reported that Paul had moved back to the borough from rehab and wanted to start giving educational talks to children about the dangers of drugs. His first talk took place in May 2009 to just 10 children at the Rainham Royals Youth Club.

He then began speaking in schools throughout the borough and in neighbouring Brentwood. Via word-of-mouth about the impact of his hard-hitting talks, he has now spoken to an estimated 65,000 children.

Philosophy

Most Read

Paul, now of Harold Hill, said: “I had no idea I’d speak to so many kids, I’m not a big organisation, I’m just one man. I’ve done the work voluntarily for two-and-a-half years before people realised what I was doing was powerful stuff.”

He began working with Queens Park Rangers football club on their community programme earlier this year and has since set up the no2drugs project with them.

West Ham, Reading, Liverpool and Manchester United have now expressed interest in working with him and the London Fire Brigade contacted him following the summer riots.

His philosophy is simple: “Take drugs out of the equation and prisons would be empty. Everything I did was because of drugs. Early intervention is key because kids start trying cannabis in Year 8.”

A TV crew is now following him around for a documentary which they hope to screen next year. They’ve followed him to football matches and filmed him give his talks – in which he doesn’t spare children the details.

Ambition

“Most of the members of the gang I was in are either dead from heroin or have mental health problems. One of them is serving a life sentence for knifing someone,” he said.

“Last week at a school in Doncaster a teacher fainted and four pupils passed out. That’s actually quite common in the talks, girls cry and boys pass out – but I’ve never had a complaint.

“When I came out of the school there were 245 friend requests on Facebook from the kids. Not everyone wants to ask questions in front of a big assembly, the number of messages I get are unbelievable.”

“I think I’m just at the start of something really great. My aim is to work with football clubs to reach half a million kids in the next 10 years,” he added.

For more information about his work visit www.paulhannaford.com.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter