Last year, Eritreans were reportedly among the most numerous of those attempting the risky crossing from North Africa to Europe by boat. 17 year old Benyam is one of the young people who made it.
It’s hard to know what’s really going on in Eritrea. Nestled in the North East corner of Africa, Eritrea has experienced years of conflict, drought and chronic food shortages, along with severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association and religion. Last year, Eritreans were reportedly among the most numerous of those attempting the risky crossing from North Africa to Europe by boat.
17 year old Benyam is one of the young people who made it. As an unaccompanied teenager, he was put in a foster family and given a place at school. When we met him last summer, he’d been in the UK for just a few months and barely spoke a word of English.
That didn’t stop his personality shining through! Friendly and polite, he told us that he had come from a family of goat farmers in rural Eritrea and was finding life in London very different. He’d never seen a computer before coming to the UK and beamed with excitement at the thought of learning how to use one. The one thing that had remained consistent was his love of food; he talked about it a lot with a big grin on his face and told us about an Eritrean family he’d met locally who cooked meals for him.
Eager to progress in his education, Benyam was delighted that RSN could match him with a volunteer mentor to support him in his education. But when he heard more, his face fell: “Just one hour a week?” he asked with disappointment, “Why not more?” He was so keen to improve his basic English that he wanted all the help he could get.
A few weeks later, Benyam got on a bus and made the 30 minute journey to Croydon library to meet his new mentor, John, who then told us:
“This was our first mentoring session and Benyam was an absolute joy to work with. He is so keen to learn and has a very positive attitude. We worked on possessive pronouns - my, his, her, their etc. in the context of family relations (his grandmother, their children etc.), the names for which he has been learning in class.”
Encouraged by John’s regular support, Benyam is now making real progress in his English and starting to feel more at home in London.