Mohamed left care at 16, has lived in numerous hostels and is now on an FA Coaching course at Fulham FC. He shares his excitement about the opportunity he’s been given.
I came to the UK as an unaccompanied child refugee. I moved from hostel to hostel. In the place I last lived, when you get to certain age they ask you to move on. I always thought I’d stay there until I was ready to move on. I left care when I was 16 and had to adapt and grow quickly.
I’m 23 next month, so I’ve come a long way. I adapted by avoiding getting in trouble and negative situations. I started to realise that time is valuable. I also learned not to get involved in things that don’t benefit me. If you don’t have a good set of friends, you can get into trouble. When you’re younger, you’re exposed to a lot of things, like going clubbing, or just being out with your friends. I’m really happy that I avoided getting in trouble.
Independence at 17
When I was 17, I had just become independent. A lot has changed – I am more tuned in. I have adapted – no more wasting time, allowing it to go past me. When you get older, things become a little different. You have to fend more for yourself.
The best thing you can have is positive support. I have the best support from Jackie, my St Mungo’s support worker and the manager, Octawia, also David, another support worker, they have advised and all supported me. I’ve been in hostels since 2011 and I’ve come across a lot of support workers in 10 hostels. I can honestly say this is the best support I’ve had from St Mungo’s.
Jackie understands me. She talks and explains things to me like a human being and actually helps me – that is sometimes rare to find in hostels. I think that everyone who lives here would say the same thing. There’s no way I’m not going to take advantage of any opportunities.
I never had any professional relationship with my keyworkers before. When I got inside the hostel, I lived in my room until I got moved out. There was no following up with things. My support worker is always encouraging me to achieve as much as possible and to focus on what I need to achieve.
Opportunities make life better
It’s great having the opportunity to do things – that’s what makes life better. I’ve lived in hostels since 2011 run by different organisations. The opportunities were there before, but they were quite limited because of where I was. They would only help you with the main things like studying or working. There weren’t the extra opportunities.
Now I‘m on a Football Association (FA) Level 1 Coaching Course at Fulham Football Club which comes with qualifications. I was referred to it via another course through Arsenal FC – my support worker, Jackie, was the link.
When I started at Arsenal FC, it gave me great motivation. I eventually got this opportunity which is consistent. The Arsenal FC course was eight weeks, which finished. I get to play a lot of football. Joining this course has helped to strengthen my position on the Homeless World Cup Team. We’re going to Russia next year. The tournament was in Brazil four years ago. Playing Brazil has been one of my dreams.
‘I’m humbled by the opportunity I’ve been given’
I’m also involved with Become, the charity that helps young care leavers. Life is better. I’ve given up smoking – I gave up six months ago. I started smoking when I became independent due to the stress. After six years, I finally gave up. It’s one of my biggest achievements. My social worker has seen a dramatic change in me.
I’ve just started at Fulham FC. I’m humbled by the opportunity I’ve been given. It’s really exciting. I get to be at Craven Cottage. I’m considering becoming either a trainer or a support worker with young people, to inspire them if they want to achieve – anything is possible. I feel like I’m doing something with my life. Being at Arsenal was exciting but Fulham is more exciting because of the added qualification. I get to go and watch matches, something I never had a chance to go do – it’s really nice and I’m grateful.