“I fled Afghanistan last year when I was just 16 years old.”

“After the Taliban took over the government, they were rounding up healthy males and torturing them if they did not support the Taliban. My father had been a police officer under the previous government and he is still in hiding, unable to leave home for fear of his life. My father was worried for my safety and so paid for me to flee Afghanistan and journey to the UK. I travelled for over 3 months, suffering mental and physical torture at the hands of smugglers.

During this time, I often had no idea which country I was in as I travelled on small boats and inside large containers. My journey came to an end when I was found by UK police in the back of a lorry with nothing but the T-shirt, jogging bottoms and sandals I was wearing. I was placed in the care of Hertfordshire’s Social Services. The Children Services Team contacted One YMCA and I was offered a place at one of their Asylum Projects. Staff at the project gave me a warm welcome with tea and biscuits and a tour of the house.

It was reassuring to find other residents who also spoke Farsi there. I was made to feel at home with my own room, and new bedding and toiletries. I was given dried and tinned food and a voucher for things like fresh fruit and vegetables. A staff member then took me on a shopping trip to the local town. My worker contacted a long-term Afghan resident from another Asylum Project house on FaceTime, he told me about his positive experience with One YMCA and what to expect from my time at the project. It was good to feel safe and settled. Within weeks, I was supported to make and attend health appointments and I started receiving a weekly allowance to help me budget for myself. I have a social worker and was introduced to the Refugee Council. I also began weekly counselling sessions for my PTSD and have started my asylum claim application. I now have a photo ID card from the Home Office helping me to feel accepted in the UK.

After about three months, I was enrolled at Harlow College on an ESOL course to learn entry level English, Maths and IT. I’ve made lots of Afghan friends at college, at mosques and at other One YMCA Asylum Projects. I like talking to staff and enjoy cooking evening meals for myself and the other residents. I am able to continue following Islam by praying five times a day and fasting during Ramadan, and I have regular phone contact with my family in Afghanistan. I love watching and playing cricket and have been very fortunate to have been welcomed at the local cricket club. I go to the weekly training sessions and now even play in matches. The club has kindly given me free
membership and uniform. My main concern is my parents and siblings left behind in Afghanistan, I’m worried about their safety. I have been with One YMCA for almost seven months and I am very happy here.”

“They help and provide me with everything. They care for me so much and I am very grateful for this”

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