“When I arrived in England, I had no money and no food, and I kept walking until I found a police station. I didn’t speak English, but I knew how to say “I am from Darfur.”
I’m only 23, but already, I’ve traveled a huge distance in life… from my childhood in the fields growing maize and herding cows and from the Janjaweed armed militias known as “devils on horseback” who burned down my village, shot me and killed my father, across the Sahara in a truck and across the sea in a container, to arrive in a place called ‘Bromley’ to negotiate London life and Home Office paperwork.
Without my family–indeed, without the knowledge as to whether they’re alive or not–this journey might have been simply a dark and lonely one. Whether running from the militias in Darfur, or warming myself by a fire in an abandoned warehouse in a Calais winter, one thing remained absolutely necessary: friendship.
Through a “befriending” service for young, unaccompanied asylum seekers, I met Anna, who has been like a mother to me for six years now. So many other refugees feel isolated, unable to make connections with British people. Yes, there are social workers and charity workers and immigration officers, but the chance to really talk, to get to know a British person and their culture–that’s something that bureaucracy can’t provide. It’s one thing to have a case worker, and entirely another thing to have a friend, someone who wants to show you the mummies in the British Museum, or who invites you to Christmas lunch.
Last year, I even won the annual Christmas Day egg and spoon race in Anna’s street! I may have lost my old home and my old family life, but my friendship with Anna and her family proves that I’ve found lots, too.”
Although the journey to the UK is a long, hard one, I often hear from refugees who have made it here, that it’s once they arrive that they feel most alone.
Host Nation is a London based charity where people can volunteer to befriend refugees, welcome them to the country and help them to start rebuilding their lives.
If you’d like to make a new friend like Abu, you can check out their page here: