Rozina became aware of The Freedom Project, our life skills and employability programme, when she visited Mustard Tree’s retail hub in Ancoats. Missing the routine that a job provides and prone to worrying about her immigration status, Rozina joined our retail team. She found that being a Freedom Project Participant has “given me the space to think about my future.”

”I didn’t know about Mustard Tree until some friends brought me, to register for the allowance that asylum seekers can get here. When I was registering, the Freedom Project was mentioned and I volunteered.

I’d been a school teacher in Eritrea and was used to working, so found I struggled with the amount of free time I had. As an asylum seeker, it’s hard to meet people or develop friendships, so working on the shop floor is good because you both mix with the other participants on the Freedom Project and deal with the customers.

The Freedom Project is for people who have significant barriers to work, so all the participants have a reason for being here. Because of that and because it’s a workplace, it feels like everyone’s on the same level. So I can talk about my experiences and not feel judged. I’ve found that most people here are kind, they listen to you and that helps me feel better about my situation.

Working here makes me feel like I’m contributing. Before I started here I was spending too much time alone and allowed things to get me down. But here I feel like I’m part of the team, which makes me feel like I have a responsibility to the team, which encourages me to do more. I was recently made a supervisor and that’s helped my confidence too.

Before I came here I was constantly worried about my immigration status and now if I have a question or need to make a phone call, I can ask a member of the Freedom Project staff. Coming from a different country is an overwhelming experience; there’s so much you don’t know. Because they can support me like this, the Freedom Project’s given me the space to think about my future.

In September, I’m going back to college, to study for a teaching apprenticeship. I applied for that because Manchester Adult Education Service ran a job search course at Mustard Tree which I did and found out about it then.  After that, I want to study to be a teaching assistant. It’s important to me to become a professional and to feel like I make a contribution.

I also want to continue to do at least a day a week’s voluntary work. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot out of my time here and made a contribution. I like that I came to be helped, became part of the team and now I help.”

Written by Gordon Harries


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