50 Years 50 Voices "I still struggle when I think about the past, but I feel safe. That is the main thing." Abdul’s* Story *Name changed to protect identity I was at school when the Second Ivorian Civil War broke out in my home country, the Ivory Coast, in 2011. I was one of the students arrested. That is when all the problems started for me, and I had to make the decision to leave and find somewhere else. Its been four years since I left the Ivory Coast, and two years since I came to London. I haven’t seen or heard from my mum since I left, and my dad is dead. I have a brother – who also lives in London – and he is the only person I really know here. He is my strength. It was in January 2019 that I first contacted the Home Office to seek asylum. They told me I had to wait 45 days and they would see what they could do for me. Two months went by without any response. Then, in March 2019, I was told that I was to be referred to Hestia as a victim of modern slavery. That’s when I met Rachel, my advocate. She told me how everything was going to work. Before the pandemic, I saw her every fortnight. Now we speak three times a week and meet up whenever the government guidelines allow. She has helped me more than I can say. I want to say thank you. Rachel helped me apply for accommodation, and I now have somewhere to live. She helped me to apply for school, too – I’m now learning English and really love it. Going to school has made so happy because I’ve been able to meet new people. Even if we don’t understand each other because of the language barrier, it has just been good for me to be around people. The most important thing Rachel has done for me was help me get a GP. I was going through a lot of physical pain and needed someone to help me cure it. It also helped with my mental health. The past and everything I went through was very challenging. I was always thinking about the past. They have helped me manage that. My brother has been a big part of my recovery; he inspires me. He has been a mother and father figure to me. I get to see him a few times a month. He gives me advice for life – he’s always telling me to make sure I take school seriously, and to respect myself so that other people respect me too. He’s told me that while the past was challenging, he believes that I can leave it behind me and move on. I don’t know what would happen if I didn’t have him; I don’t know anyone else in the UK. I have some friends from my accommodation, but we don’t speak the same language. Being lonely is not easy. I don’t have contact with anyone in the Ivory Coast, either – apart from my girlfriend. My dream is for her to be able to move her one day so we can have a family together. My brother is my strength now, but I know that if I had children, they would be my strength. I am proud that I made the decision to leave my country. I have been through many challenges, but I have made it. I still struggle when I think about the past, and things can be stressful as I don’t know if my asylum claim will be successful. But I feel safe. That is the main thing. I’m focusing on school now. I desperately want to be able to work here. I’d love to be able to work in construction one day. Any job that allows me to integrate into London life, I would do. And then, I want to build my family, and build my future. Which book has impacted me the most? I used to really like reading books in my country, but I can’t here because of the language barrier. There is a book I read in French – The Return of the Child Soldier – which I read a long time ago when I was in the Ivory Coast. The child was an orphan, but he spoke about the future. I can relate with him. Which film has impacted me the most? I used to watch films a lot but I don’t have a TV in my room, so I don’t watch films anymore. I watch football because in the past, my dream was to become a footballer. I watch the football when I go to my brother’s house. Which song has impacted me the most? I listen to French rap songs. There are two brothers that sing together, Yakuba and Seyba – I like their songs because they talk about religion and people who have lost their parents. I am a Muslim and believe my religion has helped me overcome my trauma. It’s God’s will that I’m still here.