I believe education is the key that will open my future and be the catalyst which enables me to break free from the cycle of deprivation and poverty which has defined and dominated much of the previous years of my life. Ismail
Being abandoned and destitute put Ismail on the path to becoming a human rights Barrister.
At around 16 years old, when Ismail was about to take his GCSEs, he discovered a secret that would dictate the next 10 years of his adult life. “All of a sudden things started to make sense”, he explains.
“It made sense why I couldn’t take the bus, why I was unable to have a travel card. It made sense why I had to walk an hour and half to go to school every day.”
Ismail had arrived in the UK at the age of nine, where he started primary school. He recalls those early years in the UK fondly: “What really mattered was my friends, going to school, making the best of my homework.” He explains, “Slowly you start to feel you’re part of where you are. You’re part of the UK, you’re part of the environment you’re in. You’re part of the community. The less you connect yourself with your country of origin…in my case, Bangladesh.”
His early childhood in Bangladesh was wrought with struggles. So when he was sent to live with extended family members in the UK as a child, he remembers feeling relieved. However, his young life was to turn upside down in his teenage years after discovering that he was ‘undocumented’.
Fearing the authorities would discover his irregular status in the UK, Ismail was wrenched from his school and hidden away. “I couldn’t say to my friends or teachers why I dropped out. When you face the prospect of being deported from the UK and being disconnected forcibly from the life you have established here, it’s not easy to take. It’s a real shock.”
Most of the time I was consumed with fear, anxiety and stress as I was unable to determine or control many essential aspects of my own life. Ismail
Ismail went from being a very socially active teenager, with a love of sports and many friends, to not leaving the house and spending day and night worrying what would happen to him. “The emotional things eventually boiled into something and triggered mental health issues for me; depression initially and later on, PTSD.”
To compound his situation, he was then abandoned by his family members. Without legal status in the UK, he had no access to public funds, no education opportunities or support of any kind. When attempting to regularise his status, Ismail received poor legal advice, which led to three rejections from the home office over 10 years.
He describes his biggest challenge as being the continuous uncertainty. “Not knowing what was going to happen – this is the kind of situation where you’re not in prison, but you might as well be in prison”.
At certain points in his adult life, Ismail found himself on the brink of total destitution. When Ismail finally received the letter he’d be waiting for – “you have been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK” – he was struck by the anticlimactic numbness he felt. After more than a decade of uncertainty, the feeling of vulnerability was hard to shake.
But Ismail’s determination to pursue his education never waned. He saved money from his leafleting job and spent his spare time using public library computers to apply for university scholarships and grants. “I struggled for two years to find funding. I made more applications than I could possibly remember.” Eventually, Ismail received a scholarship and he poured his heart and soul into his Law Bachelor studies, seeing education as his golden ticket.
However, despite his now regular status, he was still unable to access any public funds. Financial struggles cast a looming shadow over much of his university experiences. “In my second year of my studies, I was broke and couldn’t afford my rent,” he explains. “It was not physically possible for me to work enough hours and study at the same time. So I was in a situation where either I would starve to death or I would [have to] drop out of university.
At that time, Hope for the Young supported Ismail under its Grants and Advocacy Programme, which provides grants for young refugees and asylum seekers without access to financial support or student loans. “Hope for the Young provided me with essential funds that allowed me to survive that period until the situation became a bit more manageable for me.”
Two years on, Ismail has completed his Bachelor’s degree, spent a year serving as President of his university’s student union and is now studying to become a Barrister at one of the country’s most prestigious universities, BPP University, with a full scholarship.
I felt like the crushing weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders…The generosity I was bestowed with was a turning point at a truly harrowing time. The contribution Hope for the Young has made and continues to make in my life will never be forgotten Ismail
Having made great strides towards his future career, Ismail believes the experiences and challenges he’s overcome will benefit him as a law practitioner. “My experience shapes the way I see the world. I see things differently. I can connect with many cases, with many people’s stories. I can understand why people may have done certain things.”
According to Ismail, the financial, emotional and mentoring support that Hope for the Young provides has the power to change lives. “People like me, we need support because we’re not at a stage where we can be self-sufficient. We cannot support ourselves on every aspect of our needs. The support puts us in a position where we can contribute, where we can be self-sufficient, and perhaps even contribute back to the community.”
I only wish that Hope for the Young continues to be the wonderful organisation that it is and would continue to be able to support many other young people like myself overcome strenuous hardships and prosper in life. Ismail