Michael’s story

‘I never wanted to be a burden on others. I am now a writer, a healthcare worker and a support worker who mentors people.’



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I am from East Africa, and I have been in the UK since 2003. It wasn’t until 2017, 14 years later, that I was granted asylum. For all those 14 years I was living off the mercy of other people, volunteers and organisations like the Red Cross.

Knowing I was prohibited to work when seeking asylum slowly killed my motivation and ambition to do anything.  My health challenges as a survivor of torture, and not having a proper home also made it hard. At the time I didn’t speak great English, which also made it hard understanding the different accents.

I felt safe, but also unsafe because I could not get rid of the feeling that at any moment, I could get deported.

When I finally received my right to work, I needed to find a way to support myself because I never wanted to be a burden on others. I eventually got in contact with Breaking Barriers through a friend. They helped me with writing my CV and training programmes, such as public speaking, which improved my confidence and self-belief. I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare but there were limitations in funding when it came to training.

Thanks to Breaking Barriers and help from the Health and Safety Group, which provides expert training to the healthcare sector, I was able to complete my mandatory training. Over time, I built skills in public speaking, communication skills and, thanks to the support I received, I am now a writer, a healthcare worker, I facilitate counselling groups and support others facing depression, and I am also a support worker who mentors people.

I applied for a Breaking Barriers grant and received a computer from an organisation called Screen Share. I also received a grant to help with my theory test which I have now passed. This helped expand my opportunities, such as becoming self-employed and finding opportunities for good pay and personal development. Acquiring further driving skills in the form of my practical test after passing my theory test will open more doors for me, especially working in health where people might need assistance to go somewhere.

To be self-employed and to see how I can use my skills to help my autistic children, and also help other families facing similar difficulties. That is how I would like to use my experience – to help others and my family.