Council funding enables us to help hundred of London refugees – Simi’s story


Breaking Barriers

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We’ve received funding from the European Social Fund and London Councils to help hundreds of refugees like Simi rebuild their lives through training and employment.

In August this year, 18-year-old Simi was homeless – awaiting official refugee status from the Home Office – and struggling to find stability in London.

“Housing is the biggest problem,” she says. “I was given short-term accommodation by my church in North Lambeth, but eventually I had to leave.” Without the necessary paperwork, Simi couldn’t work or apply for housing benefit, meaning she was unable to pay rent.

Simi approached Refugees At Home, a small charity that links refugees struggling for housing with host families who can provide a spare room, and they were able to find accommodation for her in Ealing, where she moved to in October. Wondering what other help was available, a Google search for “refugee charities” brought her to Breaking Barriers. “There’s lots of help out there if you know where to find it,” she explains.

Through Breaking Barriers, Simi attended a skills workshop at city law firm Mishcon De Reya, and met her mentor, Polina.

Our corporate and business partners, like Mishcon, are crucial to the work that we do. By providing workshops, placements and one-on-one mentors for our clients, they teach practical skills that will instantly be put to use in the workplace, as well as build up confidence and contacts. For many refugees like Simi, a foot in the door and a boost of self-esteem is all that’s needed.

“It’s about building up confidence,” she says. “When I arrived in the UK as a child, I struggled with language, with understanding my teachers, and I was a victim of bullying too. I took part in confidence workshops with Breaking Barriers which have really helped.”

Alongside training, Simi is interning within Breaking Barriers while she awaits her refugee status, managing our network of volunteers and providing admin support.

“I’ve learned about email and phone etiquette,” she explains. “As well as learning Excel and presentation skills.”

Now Simi is studying for the A* grade she needs to read mathematics at university in Scotland next year, and wants to pursue a career in finance.

“It’s been a tough road!” she admits. Her message to others in her shoes? “Don’t give up. This isn’t the end… It’s just the beginning.”