Arriving in Lancaster, I felt isolated at first, I felt like I was a bit lost. 

But in time I realised that there was this organisation, Global Link, which was a place where a lot of refugees and asylum seekers could get support. When I found out that there was this gathering together every Tuesday of people with lots of different nationalities, and when I came to the first lunch drop-in, I felt alive again. I felt like I could finally breathe again.  At home I couldn’t find anyone to communicate with, but when I came here to Global Link, I started to spend such good moments with different people.  The staff were amazing, so welcoming…….It was very easy for me to connect with all of them, because everyone was so friendly, the staff, the volunteers. I really liked the environment; I felt like I was finally safe.  I felt like I could always come here. Any time at Global Link I felt like I could express myself and I could talk to the staff and they were always here for us and they understand what we are going through and they were always here to help us with what we need…….

Then I started volunteering and participated in different workshops. The workshops changed my point of view.

One of the workshops was Escape to Safety where I had to share my own story. I had to tell what I went through in the past.  I could finally let it out. It is really hard when you keep everything inside.  You don’t know who to trust and you don’t know if you can talk to anyone.  So when I shared my story I was finally at peace with myself because I was really struggling inside…..

Recently I attended the Mobilise Active Citizenship training course….that was also amazing and I learned a lot. It made me feel like I was part of this community…… I wanted to collaborate with other people so we can give back something  to this community.  So I started understanding that this community is doing a lot of things for us and we are also here to give something back. So it is mutual benefit. It really opened my mind.  It really changed my point of view.  I really have to do something with myself.  I can change!  I can make a big impact.  Not only for myself, but I realised I could make a big impact, on other Eritreans, on other asylum seekers and refugees. I can influence them by helping them to understand that they are capable of using their potential. First of all to grow, and then afterwards they will be able to give something back.

You are here – the community is helping you with everything (the house, the benefits), so it made me ask myself what I AM doing here.  When I use my potential and I grow with it, I can help someone else, I can help another refugee.  Anyone can do the same thing, so it comes full circle. When you help someone else, they are going to help others. What goes around, comes around, right? So that really changed my point of view.  That’s why I want to carry on with my studies, so I started searching around and decided I wanted to do social work…..So I’m not doing this only for me.  I’m going to help and support other individuals who might be struggling, with pain and trauma and abuse.  I’m going to do this for others, for refugees, for people with disabilities.  The course is all about this – making a positive change for people.

I felt, finally I can find myself.   The workshop was really powerful because it was like a mirror; it made me realise who I am and what I want to do.

At the beginning as a refugee you don’t have a clue what to do and where to go. You need guidance.  You feel lost.  That is why in the future I want to help others because I understand what you go through when you get refugee status. You need someone who can help with the next step.  Right now helping other refugees gave me insight into what I want my future to be.  It really gave me a sense of fulfilment.

Volunteering was also an amazing experience.  It really helped me. Thanks to that experience I really gained more knowledge and skills and I started to learn how the UK system worked.

I developed some new abilities, because at that time we had to deal with some asylum seekers who were depressed and anxious with the long waiting for an interview or papers.  They were more desperate than I was, so I developed the ability to stay calm in stressful situations, so that was a new skill……

At the beginning I wasn’t talking to anyone, I felt like it wasn’t anyone else’s business.  In the end it was Gisela.  She really listened to me, and really understood what I was going through, and her advice was really useful.  I could have gone to her earlier and then I wouldn’t have gone through so much stress.  Then I started to understand what it is like to work in a team. If you are working in a situation, you get help and advice and direction from other people on how to cope with helping vulnerable people.  And then everything changed and I became very patient and calm with all of them, and I could establish a good rapport even though I could hear desperate and anxious people.  And what I learned is that people just want to be listened to. Someone who listens to you without criticising you and judging you.

In general lockdown was really tough. It wasn’t easy for anyone.  Actually I really felt still connected to other people thanks to the online conversation space, where we were really sharing together.  I felt like I was still valuable.  If it wasn’t for the online Zoom conversation space, I would go crazy…thanks to that online Zoom conversation I could survive. I could breathe again.  It was very helpful, not only for me, but also for the other refugees and asylum seekers.  Global Link made me feel that I matter.

I also did the level 2 community interpreting course, with the WEA…I learned a lot…..We were all from other countries…..It makes you feel good to share with other people from different countries and cultures about your own culture and your traditions and once you start to know about other cultures, you start to understand what really matters to them.

I’ve also learnt a lot about cultural sensitivity.  I’ve learnt about the similarities and differences between different cultures. At the beginning it wasn’t like that because of the lack of awareness that I used to have about the differences in different cultures.   Sometimes you feel like you can’t have connections with people, even other refugees. You feel you cannot talk, there is no connection, you feel you cannot have a good relationship with them.  But then with time, it just changed everything!  I started being more aware of the similarities you can have.  Because even if you have differences, no matter what differences you have, you also have the similarities.  No matter what the differences you have, you can make a great relationship.  If you just point at the differences you won’t go far. But once you start to understand that we have lots of similarities it makes it easier.

In 2020 I shared coffee online for refugee week.  It makes you feel good to share your culture and learn about others, and it is like you are a unity.