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Impact Stories

Biruk’s story: “The staff at Legacy have given me optimism in the darkest period in my life”

Meet Biruk a 23-year-old asylum seeker from Ethiopia. He fled his country as he felt his only safe option was to leave. Here is Biruk’s story on his journey of escape and getting referred to Legacy, Croydon Youth Zone’s employability programme ‘Empowered’.

Biruk’s story

“Leaving my family, my home, my education, and the country I love was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. I made a long and dangerous journey to England, partly on a boat and partly swimming across the channel with many others. This massively affected my mental health. The journey was difficult, but what weighs on my mind is whether my family are ok or not. Thankfully, I arrived safely and I’ve had so many generous people helping me whilst claiming asylum and getting a visa. I have a great community around me and I was referred to Legacy Youth Zone.

I felt hope when I first came here, there were lots of opportunities and incredible support from Reanne and Wiktoria who ran the Empowered sessions. Alongside some other people around my age, we went through six weeks of training looking at things like CV writing, skills workshops, and interview techniques. They asked us hard hitting questions about where we saw ourselves in five years’ time and what we want to be known for. They were so encouraging.

Biruk's story: Biruk worked with Empowered Coordinator Reanne, looking at things like CV writing, skills workshops and interview techniques

Through joining the Empowered programme, I was also able to join the gym. It’s true what they say – exercise is key to a positive mental attitude. I’m a lot more positive and active thanks to Legacy Youth Zone. The staff have been inspirational, they’ve given me optimism in the darkest period in my life, and they’ve made me feel valued and noticed – even if I am an asylum seeker. I have a much more positive outlook on my life, and they’ve helped me broaden my horizons and given me hope for the future.”

Biruk graduated from the Empowered programme in December 2021, and still attends mentoring sessions as he looks at his education prospects in the UK. He still has no contact with his family and is awaiting his visa.

Empowered Coordinator Reanne said:

“Biruk is a lovely young man with an incredible soul. He is an inspiration to us all and we applaud his positivity in the midst of difficulty and uncertainty. It has been an honour to support him at this time, and we know that if he continues in this positive trajectory that he will excel in his chosen education and career path.”

Biruk with Empowered Coordinator Reanne and Wiktoria

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