Abel, a young man from Ethiopia, arrived in the UK seeking asylum aged 16. At that time, Abel lacked the confidence and self-belief he needed to settle into his new life in the UK. Abel was matched with volunteer mentor, Nicole. With Nicole’s support, Abel found the confidence to embrace his identity, explore his passions, and navigate the challenges of life as a young refugee in a new country. This is their story.
If I didn’t have a mentor, I would feel that I have no opportunity to change my life in the UK. Abel - Mentor
Abel had to leave his home and come to the UK due to his sexuality. When he first arrived in the UK, he found himself struggling to integrate into his new environment. Abel remembers that the language barrier and his lack of confidence made it difficult for him to make new friends and get out of his comfort zone.
Abel first heard about Hope for the Young through CARAS, one of our partner charities, who support people of refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds living in South-West London. After being referred to us, Abel was matched with his mentor Nicole, who had recently moved to London herself.
Originally from Canada, Nicole had a wealth of mentoring experience from her time volunteering with groups of young girls in Canada through a national mentoring programme called Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Nicole had been deeply impacted by news of the refugee ‘crisis’ in the UK and was excited to put her experience in mentoring young people and her desire to support refugees to good use.
Giving back to the community, whether that means locally or globally is really important to me. There are so many people, young people, who just need interpersonal support and you can’t always get that through official/legal systems. Nicole - Mentor
Nicole and Abel began to meet for two to three hours each week at local cafes or the park. From their very first meeting, Nicole aimed to create a safe and supportive space for Abel. For the first few weeks of mentoring, they worked on getting to know each other, building trust, and establishing a strong foundation for their mentorship journey.
Then, they started to work on Abel’s goals of exploring his creativity, finding some direction in his education and career goals, increasing his confidence, familiarising himself with London, and developing his English writing and communication skills.
I was so excited about it [mentoring] at the beginning. My friends always asked me, “who helped you to do this?”. I was sharing that whenever I was in a situation with my education, I can always count on my mentor to guide me. Abel - Mentee
As Abel and Nicole’s mentoring relationship grew stronger, they developed a strong bond of trust and mutual understanding. They gained insight into each other’s lives, and Nicole learned a lot about Abel’s culture as well as the struggles facing young refugees and asylum-seekers in the UK.
Sometimes, they would hold their mentoring sessions at museums or go to theatres together to see plays, as they shared an interest in theatre.
Over time me and Abel developed a really strong mentor/mentee relationship and there was a lot of trust. I felt like he really trusted that he could come to me with his thoughts and concerns and I felt like I could trust that I knew him well enough to properly support. Nicole - Mentor
To help Abel develop his communication skills and explore his passions, they spent time discussing a wide range of topics and completed creative writing exercises and assignments. By writing and telling stories, Abel was not only improving his English, but also learning more about himself and working towards self-acceptance.
Nicole also encouraged Abel to step out of his comfort zone and try new things. Together, they explored a lot of creative outlets and ways for Abel to express himself, from acting and writing to dancing. With Nicole’s support, Abel was able to join a dance class, apply for part-time work at a theatre, and even built up the courage to be interviewed on a podcast for queer people.
People heard me in this [podcast] and said they related to this. It helped them to know that someone existed like this. Abel - Mentee
After discovering his passion and talent for acting and working on creative writing and storytelling with Nicole, Abel then starred in a play put on by Phosphorous Theatre Company. This was Nicole’s favourite memory from mentoring:
I felt so proud because he had come such a long way in his self-discovery and creative exploration. The confidence he showed on the stage was incredible and it made me realize how worth it all of the time spent together was. Nicole - Mentor
Then, as their mentoring relationship began to wind down, Abel surprised and impressed us all once more.
At our Annual Party in December, Abel gave an incredibly beautiful and inspiring speech in front of seventy people, including Nicole! This was an incredible achievement and a true testament to Abel’s newfound confidence, communication skills, and self-belief.
Abel has now received his refugee status and is living independently. In the future, he hopes to have a career in which he can help young people achieve their goals. As he tells us, mentoring with Nicole has directed him towards his own goals and provided him with the opportunities to know who he is, where he wants to be in the future, and how to get there.
I would like to say to Abel that I’m extremely proud of you and that I know you have a really bright future. If you continue to explore your creativity and discovering new passions, even if you change your mind or change pathways, you’ll find what you’re good at and what drives you forward and be successful no matter what. Nicole - Mentor
Although their mentoring relationship has now come to an end, Abel and Nicole’s bond will last forever. Their story showcases the profound impact that just 2-3 hours of mentoring each week can have on a young person’s confidence, self-esteem, and ability to achieve their dreams.
We’re looking for more volunteers like Nicole who want to support a young refugee to rebuild their life in the UK.
Click the button below to become a volunteer mentor today!