In the blink of an eye, your life can change.

“In the blink of an eye , your life can change “.

I’m  17 years old. I arrived in this country for a safe life in October 2018. I was fleeing a catastrophic situation that I do not wish to remember back home. I wanted to move forward even though I was very weak and emotionally devastated. I applied for asylum as soon as I arrived and the Home Office placed me in shared accommodation.

I got into a police van and they explained to me that they were going to transfer me to a house. I was so scared of being in a police car. I could not believe that they were helping me, the thought of them wanting to send me back was playing heavily in my mind.

I was living with three other young boys. Sharing the toilet and the kitchen. Anyone can imagine the difficulty of living, learning, sleeping in these conditions. I started to suffer from sleep deprivation. Things were a struggle before the COVID-19 crisis. I was barely surviving, but survival was all I could ask for at the time. 

Lately, I’m really scared. My anxiety and stress are through the roof with this additional worry about the impossibility of being able to self isolate in a shared accommodation.  My room is small. I hear so many people saying that we can’t stay inside without doing anything during this pandemic. What about me? My life is surrounded by four walls that allow you to have less than limited activities. A shared home where the silence is not enough, where everything seems to be frozen. Where the fear of catching the virus does not miss. Where nights seem like thousands of years. In the room where I open my eyes, and in front of me appears the mess who wakes up upset by my carelessness.

My room is my living room, it’s where I sleep, where I exercise & where I am alone with myself & my thoughts. The window is my garden. I open it to feel the fresh air and pray for better days to come. The night is what I fear the most. I hear a lot of noises in the living room caused by my flatmates. I can’t sleep and occasionally I’m scared to go to the toilet, I fear they may be drunk and become aggressive towards me. I choose to stay in my room, hungry, and not go to the toilet either. Then I start crying in silence, I feel like a parasite in this room, unable of moving. This room that is thirsty for beautiful days. I was dreaming with my eyes open. How would things be if my mum was sitting in that living room and I would go put my head in her lap? 

Tell her how much I’m struggling or maybe only cry without saying a thing.

I have been suffering from sleep deprivation caused by my anxiety and high levels of stress. Medication is helping me but also causing a lot of side effects. I feel so tired during the daytime sometimes, and I can’t have a relaxing shower either. The lack of hygiene from my housemates really concerns me and stops me from using most of the shared spaces & appliences. One day the police came and knocked on my door. I opened the door and I was so scared. I looked so tired because of a long night without sleep and they asked me if I’m alright. I briefly told them that I was fine but I was just tired.

They asked me if I have knowledge about Robert going missing. Robert was my housemate. He had disappeared and the fact that he was a minor had the police concerned. They were asking me if I would go to the police station to give a statement about Robert. I told them that I don’t know him well. They were asking me if I have his number and if they can check my phone. I was really frightened, It seemed like they suspected me of knowing where Robert was. Overall the stresses that I had living in a sharing accommodation, made me devastated and more stressed. What if this boy was a drug dealer? What if he came back to our accommodation?  I was trying to take two pills from my medication instead of one so I would feel tired and sleep most of the time.

My anxiety was increasing more and more with each passing day. I would not go to college sometimes, I could not concentrate on my studies. I would lock my room door and I put the cupboard behind the door so I would feel safer. I was asking my social worker if they would move me as the conditions were very poor in the accommodation where I was living. They are trying to move me from here now. My immigration case was not in good hands until I got to know Shpresa Programme and Teta Flutra (Youth advocate). She has been one of the best supporters in my life. This has made me become less anxious.

I will share with you what helped me keep going  I was referred to Shpresa  programme by my sister. When I went there they listened to me , they understood, they helped me and I got to  know people I can trust. They gave me opportunities to learn English, as my English was not very good. Teta Flutra arranged counselling sessions for me, I got to know an amazing counsellor that helped go through a lot of the mental struggle I was experiencing.

Teta Flutra, Teta Luli, and all the needed support was there for me and my Albanian friends 24/7 –no matter if it was midnight or mid-day they would always pick up the phone and listen to us attentively.  I don’t know how they did it; from the first meeting they understood everything I needed, if they didn’t offer any specific services, they knew who and where to refer me to. They enabled me to discover skills and positiveness when I thought ‘I’m not worth it’. I didn’t want to go to college, but because of Teta Flutra calling me every day trying to convince me, now I want to pursue higher education. I joined the zoom meetings every single day, they cheered me up with their fun games and positive vibes. I can’t wait to go back to the youth club to play with my friends and meet Teta Flutra and all the staff of Shpresa Programme.

They are patient, they are nonjudgmental, they make me feel proud of being Albanian. They make me thank God for their existence. Thanks to them now my immigration case is in safe hands.

They told me: ‘it’s okay to cry’,  even though in our culture men need to be strong no matter what. They taught me the best way forward is to not destroy myself but to tell our stories to others, to channel the negative energy to finding solutions & helping others. 

By a Young Person at Shpresa Programme

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