Gulwali Passarlay came to the UK as a child refugee when he was just 13. Despite going through an unimaginable journey to get here, Gulwali was eventually placed with a loving foster family in Bolton and went on write an extraordinary book about his journey. Below Gulwali has shared a short story about his experience in support of our Inspiring Stories competition.
Imagine being trapped inside a refrigerator with the light on. But knowing that the door behind you is locked and sealed. There is no way out unless someone comes to open it from the other side. Pleading for help, banging fists, shouting, screaming would all be useless because there is no way a small human voice could be heard within a unit sealed as tightly as a coffin and potentially as cold as ice.
That was me aged 13, a child refugee.
In December 2010, I was placed into foster care, three years after I had arrived. It gave me stability warmth love and family – the things I needed the most. It was my best experience in the UK and without it I know I could not have achieved so much in my education.
My foster family not only opened their home they opened they hearts to me.
A lot of my assumptions and stereotypes were challenged. For example, my foster Mum Karen worked and Dad Sean stayed home to look after the kids. I found this odd at first, wrong even. It was so far removed from my own culture. But I got used to it.
Sean was so helpful to me, showing me how to cook different foods from all around the world and I learned to love our cooking sessions together. They bought me Halal food, and both took time to ask me about my school day and help with my homework.
Trusting strangers, especially ones from a different faith and culture, was hard. But they made me feel home so I did. Building a relationship like that takes time and there has to be willingness on both parts to make it work. But we became a family and I loved them both.
I think I felt I had finally made it in this country when I got a place to study politics at Manchester University. Never in my wildest dreams when I crouched hidden in those boxes of bananas did I imagine my story in the UK would end with that.