Courtney Brown tells Emma Bartholomew how the abandonment he felt by his own dad led him to set up youth mentoring charity Father 2 Father in South Hackney

It was through his work as a behaviour mentor and parent liaison officer at Cardinal Pole School that Courtney Brown realised he was behaving “like a hypocrite”.

“A lot of young people were approaching me very emotionally upset and when I asked them why, the common denominator was dad. Either mum stopped them seeing dad, dad’s working too much, or he had a new family,” he explained.

“They were holding a lot of pain and I recognised that pain. It was my own pain with my own dad, and it triggered me in terms of my own sons. It was like: ‘Wow. What have I done to my sons?’”

Courtney, 48, realised that his own father’s emotional absence had played on his during his teenage years, and he had repeated that experience with the eldest two of his four sons.

“Through my youth work I was doing restorative approaches, and I thought: ‘You are teaching how to repair harm, but you caused harm yourself.’

He decided to apologise to the mothers of his sons, who are now 22 and 18, and then apologised to them.

“They really went into me,” said Courtney. “They let out their anger for not being there, and I just said: ‘Sorry, sons. I’m sorry.’ Ten months after continuously saying sorry and making an effort to repair the harm, they came to live with me.

“Nothing – no amount of money or the lifestyle I was living back then – could replace having all my boys living under my roof, and even now my heart is pounding. It was a dream come true.

“Part of the journey was I had to forgive my dad, and I did. We both went to church together and we fell down at the altar crying and that’s when I forgave him.”

Five years ago he set up his mentoring charity Father 2 Father, which provides children with no actively involved father figure with role models and guidance.

With Stephen Lawrence’s father Neville as its patron and ambassador, the service is delivered through Hackney Quest in Poole Road, South Hackney. It is one of the three charities Hackney Speaker Clare Potter is fundraising for this year.

“A lot of young people, especially boys, go straight to anger without realising there’s sadness, annoyance, fear, frustration, or a sense of injustice,” said Courtney. “It’s about addressing those emotions and how to deal with it in a positive way.”