Top left Charlene, Heygate estate Top right Shannon, younger daughter Middle Girls playing Fashion Designers

I grew up in Bermondsey. We used to come to Elephant and Castle to go swimming, where the Leisure Centre is now. I was a kid, but I remember there were two big slides going into the water. We’d go to the cinema at the Elephant too – I saw The Little Mermaid there.

When I was nine, we left London and went to Spain. My dad worked in Gibraltar, laying pavements, and we lived in La Ligna campsite. We had a tutor instead of going to school, so we had lots of free time, lots of freedom. After that, we travelled around Europe – we lived in nine different countries in total. I loved it. I’m just about to start training as an accountant. I want to earn enough money to allow me to travel, and to take my kids abroad once they’re a bit older. I think travelling’s in my blood. I want to travel everywhere! I want to go to Australia to see my mother’s family; she hasn’t seen them for thirty years. I’ve never been out of Europe. I’d like to go to India, Japan, China. My brother’s married a Chinese woman, he’s been to China but I never have.

I got pregnant when I was 16, so I had to put things on hold for a while. I’ve always wanted to be an accountant. I find numbers easy, and I want to provide a good future for my kids, make sure they can realise their potential. I’ve never regretted getting pregnant for a minute. I was 18 when I had my second. It was quite difficult, but I did it all right. They’re really nice kids, and they do well at school. They’re good at art, and my youngest is a really good dancer. I draw and stuff as well, things like Celtic crosses – stuff that’s kind of symmetrical – I find it relaxing.

I was always quite a grown-up kid. I ran away when I was fourteen, with my brother – he’s just eleven months older than me. It sounds stupid now, and at the time it was scary. We were just kids being kids, but we hadn’t seen my mum for a year and we missed her. We were living in Dublin with my dad. My parents had fallen out, mum had left, and we didn’t have any communication, which I thought was really unfair. We knew my mum was in London, that was it. We hitchhiked, and got the boat – it took four days. We went to an old friend’s house and her mum helped us find our mum. It was difficult. It took quite a long time. She screamed when we turned up! She was quite shocked. That was the first time I lived in Elephant and Castle. We were intending to go back to Ireland, but it never happened. My brother lives in Dublin now though, with his wife and three children.

Home for me is being near my family. We’re not a traditional family, but we’re close. We see a lot of each other. My parents are both local too – my step-dad would never move away from the Elephant – he’s been here thirty years. I lived on the Heygate for two years, just as they were moving everyone out. We were the last ones left on our floor. That wasn’t nice. I hope the regeneration of Elephant and Castle works. I hope they build houses for local people, instead of just privatising everything.

Left Hazel, Charlene's motherRight Kerrie, Charlene's older daughter