Mo left Ethiopia in January 2016 after his father had been killed because of his involvement in a political opposition party. Mo was only 15 years old and travelled alone through 5 countries before arriving in the UK in May 2017.

Mo was referred to our YMCA by Hertfordshire County Council in June 2017. He had arrived in the UK two weeks earlier and had been housed in emergency lodgings in Luton before being transferred to us.

Mo was very quiet when he first moved in. He spoke no English and had no personal belongings. However, within a few weeks it became very clear that Mo recognised that he had been given a “life line” and was determined to make the most of this opportunity. Mo was the model resident as he was engaged with support staff, abided by the house rules and got on well with his fellow house-mates. His room was spotless and he was always clean and well-presented.

We supported Mo to enrol onto an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course at local college. He had to get up early and take three buses from his placement to the college, but Mo never once complained as he saw this as a learning opportunity. Within two months, Mo was able to communicate with his support staff using basic English and his tutor was so impressed with him, he was put into a more advanced group at College. A year on, and Mo can virtually speak fluent English.

Throughout his time with YMCA, Mo has been a role model for many of the new arrivals and is always the first to welcome them and help out. He has made some good friendships in the area with some other Ethiopian boys and is a popular student at College.

Mo’s asylum claim was initially rejected by the Home Office and he was devastated. However, the claim went to appeal and the judge decided to award him with five years’ leave to remain. This means Mo will be entitled to social housing and he can start to look for work.

Mo moved on recently but we are hopeful that he will return to the placement from time to time and continue to be a role model to newer arrivals and encourage them to make the most of their opportunity.

Mo’s story demonstrates that although he came with nothing, through hard work and a positive attitude he has made a life for himself. He has become a confident, sociable young man who will undoubtedly go on and thrive in the community.