Refugee Week: A look inside the stories of two ESOL students at Katherine Low Settlement

Sonia (pictured) – ‘When you want something, the universe can help you.’

Faarya’s story

When Faarya arrived in England, she didn’t know what country she was being taken to. She paid someone in France to be transported by lorry. All she knew was the urge she had to leave where she had come from. This is her story.

Faarya grew up in Kabul in Afghanistan. Her father was an army officer for Afghanistan who were fighting against Taliban forces whilst Faarya was a young woman. One day, Faarya’s uncle came to their home. She told her that the Taliban killed her father during the conflict, and were going to take over Kabul. He warned her that if she stayed, she would likely be forced to marry someone from the Taliban, and her brother would likely be killed. Her uncle gave her money and told her to leave the country and find refuge from her war-torn country.

She walked, got lifts in cars and in lorries in a gruelling journey for which she didn’t know her destination. She just hoped it would be somewhere she could live safely. After travelling across Europe and paying a lorry driver in France for a lift, she arrived in England.

Her next battle was with UK immigration, who wanted to send her back to Afghanistan. It was a process which took years, as her solicitor had to prove the danger of sending Faarya back to her home country. The solicitor found some reports that proved this, and Faarya was granted 5 years to stay in the country.

Faarya has now lived in the UK for 19 years, and is officially a British citizen. She got married and has a 9-year-old son. She works for a dry cleaner business and studies English at Katherine Low Settlement’s ESOL classes. She found out about the ESOL classes through a friend who was taking her son to the Love to Learn homework club at KLS’ community centre on Battersea High Street. Faarya has now been studying for 2 years with KLS. She volunteers for their crèche which takes care of the children of students whilst they study, all free of charge. She feels there is a lovely community there which has allowed her to make friends and feel at home.

If you’d like to find out more about KLS’ ESOL classes, visit: klsettlement.org.uk/ESOL

You can also make a monthly donation to Katherine Low Settlement by visiting: klsettlement.org.uk/donate

Sonia’s story

Sonia doesn’t identify herself as a refugee, but she moved to England 11 years ago to receive opportunities that she didn’t feel she could whilst living in Iran. During her childhood in Iran, she was often picked on for her Afghan heritage. Not only by students but also by teachers and even the headteacher of her school.

When Sonia grew into her teenage years, she had a strong desire to go to university to study medicine. This seemed like an impossible dream at the time, because Iranian universities wanted to charge her too much as her family wasn’t Iranian. She also couldn’t study in Afghanistan as women were not permitted to go to university there. Expectations were for married women to stay at home and raise children, or for unmarried women to do house work. This was especially true in Kandahar, the city where Sonia’s family came from.

11 years ago Sonia moved to England where she hoped to find more opportunities to fulfil her potential. A large obstacle for her when she moved here was that she speak English. In fact, she couldn’t spell her own name in English. She was now caring for her baby boy, which made it difficult for her to find time to learn.

When her son turned 3, Sonia was able to start taking ESOL classes to learn English with Katherine Low Settlement. She was only able to do this because KLS have a crèche where parents can leave their young children whilst they go to their classes.

This was a turning point for Sonia, because not only did she start learning English, her confidence also started to improve thanks to the support of KLS’ ESOL coordinator Sally. Sally helped Sonia with her learning and then encouraged her to take an Access to Medicine college course, which would allow her to go to university. She passed her course, and has recently had a successful application to study medicine at university.

Sonia’s wish to study medicine goes beyond becoming a doctor or nurse. Sonia’s biggest dream is to bring her sister and mother over to England, where she feels there are more opportunities for women. She is optimistic that she can as she believes ‘If you want something, the universe can help you.’

If you’d like to find out more about KLS’ ESOL classes, visit: klsettlement.org.uk/ESOL

You can also make a monthly donation to Katherine Low Settlement by visiting: klsettlement.org.uk/donate

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