"Education is the most important thing in my life at the moment, and I am looking forward to being able to finally build a future." 

Rahel* is from a small town in Eritrea, a country with a history of conflict which still experiences great poverty and instability, and where only 33% of girls enrol in primary school.

When Rahel was a 13, her parents died and she went to live with her uncle. One day, they were visited by a friend of Rahel’s uncle who had been living in England. He told them about a family there who needed help with cleaning and childcare and suggested that Rahel came with him to England to meet the family and potentially live with them. He said that in England she could go to a big school, learn English and perhaps even go to university one day. Rahel had only completed one year of primary school, and dreamed of being able to continue her education.

When she arrived in England, Rahel became uneasy because the family were not kind and welcoming like the people she’d known in her home town. They took her passport from her uncle’s friend and she never saw him again. She couldn’t understand the language the family spoke and was confused and frightened as she got into their car and headed into a foreign and unfamiliar city.

For three years, Rahel cleaned, cooked and looked after the family’s children – starting each day at 5am and often not finishing until past midnight. She was not allowed to go to school, or leave the house on her own. Whenever her work was considered not good enough, Rahel was punished with severe physical abuse. For years, she worked day and night for the family, seeing no way out.

Eventually, when she was 16, Rahel resolved that she would escape and as the months went by she became more and more determined. Finally, she decided to risk everything and try to escape while at a busy market with the mother and children of the family. To her amazement, she managed to break free in the crowds. Her heart racing, she ran for hours until she had no idea where she was. She walked for the next two days, sleeping in train stations, cold and hungry. Finally, she was found by the police who took her to social services where she is now a child in care.

Rahel has now been free from the family for a year and is slowly growing more confident. She has started at college and begun to learn English. Every week, she meets with with Christine, one of RSN’s volunteer educational mentors,  who is helping her build confidence and communicate in English.

When we first met Rahel, she was so nervous and shy she could not look us in the eye – now, with the support of her mentor, she is starting to be able to speak up and interact with adults with less fear".

Rahel has told RSN that education is the most important thing in her life at the moment, and she is looking forward to being able to finally build a future.

*Names have been changed and the photo is not of Rahel. Photo from Depositphotos.com

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