My name is Mr M. I want to share my story with you. I grew up in Iran. My family background was affluent, my family had money; I always referred to myself as a Prince. I never wanted for anything. I had everything I ever wanted. But something about me was different.
Growing up I realised that I was different. I knew how very wrong this was and tried to ensure that no one knew the true me. This led to me acting out and behaving in a way that was unacceptable. I grew more and more angry at the idea of who made these rules, who were the people responsible for deciding what was right, and who were they to tell me what choices I could make and how to live my life.
As I grew older, I could no longer hide the real me. Due to this I was attacked and persecuted. People, whom I had never known, now thought they had the right to tell me how to live my life or face consequences. The choice I had was conform or be killed.
I made the toughest decision of my life: I could not stay and pretend to be someone I was not. I had to leave home, leave my family, my mum. My mum was and still is the closest person to me; I had no choice but to escape from Iran.
My journey started in June 2014. I had to escape and flee Iran via a lorry. I ended up in Turkey. This part of the journey was excruciating: there was no food or water in really high temperature and the journey took more than twenty eight hours to get to our destination. The worst part of the journey was every time the lorry stopped, I feared being caught and being sent home to be killed. Feeling like a single choice would be the reason for me being murdered like some cattle.
After gaining some space from my perpetrators in Iran, I got a plane from Turkey to France and from France to Luton. When I was on the flight to Luton, I had no idea where I was going to go from leaving the airport or where I would stay. I had some money on me, so knew I had to figure something out quickly as the money would not last too long – maybe a week at most.
When I arrived at London Luton Airport, I was approached by police officers. I was so scared. I knew I had gained entry into the country illegally but would they send me back home to be killed? Upon speaking to them, they assured me that my life was no longer in danger. I burst out crying. I finally felt safe. They had arranged for me to stay at the airport and said someone would come see me the following morning to arrange more permanent accommodation. This was both exciting and scary. Where would they put me?
The following morning two members from Social Services, 14+ Team came and met me and said I was moving into a place called Mary Seacole Housing Association.
When I came to Mary Seacole, I was really excited. This place was filled with other people, most of them were my own age, some even spoke the same language as me and this really helped me to feel comfortable. Of course, I missed home and my family, but the staff and clients slowly became my second family. I would talk to them about my problems and for the first time in my life I was able to be exactly who I wanted to be, without the fear of being judged, ridiculed or victimised.
This new found freedom resulted in me acting out and pushing my boundaries more than I should have, but because the staff at Mary Seacole Housing Association were so supportive, I did not think they were serious when they said if my behaviour did not improve I would be asked to leave. This is eventually what happened: I was asked to leave due to my noncompliance to the rules. I was moved to another organisation and into a shared flat.
At first, I thought this was great! I was out all the time, doing exactly as I wanted, but this grew old really quickly. I realised I was not ready to live on my own. I found myself feeling really lonely. I requested for my social worker to move me back to Mary Seacole Housing Association, and to my relief I was moved back. I was determined that this time. I was going to absorb all the support on offer and I had had my chance to go crazy previously.
One of the areas I wanted support for was to gain skills and employment. I found it difficult to start with due to not having a national insurance number, but whilst my leave to remain was being processed, I was given the opportunity with the Training Unit to learn skills. The staff at the training unit taught me so many different courses, some of which I thought were not relevant to me at the time but have all come in handy later on in life.
Staff at Mary Seacole have helped me to deal with the issues that I left behind in Iran, not only did they reassure me, but they even spoke to my mum on FaceTime to let her know how I am getting on with life in the UK which my mum really appreciated. As for the longest time, I was scared to call home as I was worried about the safety of my family.
I changed as a person when I came to Mary Seacole. At first I just locked myself in my room and didn’t come out as back then and thought that would be the best way to cope. Over time I became more comfortable and relaxed and started talking to people and made friends which helped.
I worked hard. I got full time employment at a local bar in town. I was then recommended for housing and I felt like through the help of my keyworker I had learnt how to live independently. There were two particular staff members who would randomly come and check my room, as they knew I struggled with keeping it clean. Knowing these staff members would come I would always try to keep my room clean, not for any other reason but than not letting them down. I remember when they found a fish in my bedroom… they were not impressed as we were not allowed to keep any pets.
My life now is unrecognisable. I have my own flat now through Mary Seacole, and the same two staff members have come to check that my house is clean! I could not be more thankful for the support that I have been offered by staff at Mary Seacole and my social worker. I am working, safe and able to be exactly who I choose to be and not who people expect me to be.