A, is a Somali national. When the war started in Somalia, she was only a teenager that dreamed about pursuing a career in science. After fleeing to Kenya, her parents managed to get her out of the country. They could not afford to travel with her, so A travelled alone to the UK seeking safety -she was only 16.
“They moved me many times. I was eventually dispersed to Newcastle. It was a very hard time -I didn’t know anyone here, I used to stay at home and only go out to visit the library. I was living with other asylum seekers and they advised me to go to NERS. The asylum process was very long and draining, and after more than 8 years waiting, I was staring to lose hope.
NERS helped me a lot during that time -whenever I needed advice or just to make phone calls to deal with my solicitor, I went to their office. I remember when my case was refused, and I was about to be evicted -it was one of the hardest moments for me. I was told that I had to leave the house that day; I had no place to go and I was very distressed… every time that I heard someone in the stairs, I thought they were coming to take me. I went to NERS and they dealt with it and managed to keep me in my house.
They also helped me to apply for financial support and I made a further submission for my asylum case. Three months later I got my refugee status. I was so happy that I could not stop smiling, calling everyone to share the news.
For years, I had lost track of my family and did not know their fate. Eventually, I could contact them but it was only in 2011, after getting my status, that I was finally able to visit my mum in Tanzania after 10 years without seeing each other.
My dream had always been to study a degree in science studies, but I was not allowed to study because I didn’t have the papers. Still, I did the access course and when I was granted refugee status I enrolled myself straight away in the University. I was raising my son alone at that time and it surely was not easy, but I carried on with my studies and in 2016 I graduated with a degree in Biomedical Science. It was a very important moment for me -I could not stop thinking “I made it!”.
Then I started volunteering at NERS to help others going through the same. Some days are not easy, as people can be very distressed; but I have been in their shoes and I know how stressful it is to be an asylum seeker and how important it is to have someone who can guide and support you through the process.
At the beginning I found it difficult to talk with people, but volunteering gave me a lot of confidence in myself. I have a lot of friends now, and I can finally say that I love Newcastle. I still face challenges as there are many barriers to find a job but I stay confident that I will get there.
I think the work we do at NERS is very important. When people come here seeking safety, they really need help and that’s what they can find in NERS: people willing to support them in the moment that they need it the most. I would say to anyone going through this to reach out, ask for help. Even when it seems that the problems are too big and you want to give up, there is hope and people willing to help you.”