Soulemann’s Story

Soulemann’s Story

Soulemann has been living in the UK since 2012, after fleeing persecution in his home country.

He came to Mustard Tree to pursue his dream of owning his own business.


“Because I live with my partner, I lost all my benefits”

Soulemann status has made it incredibly difficult to forge a life in Manchester. Having lived in the UK since 2012, he was refused asylum and had no recourse to public funds (70% of applications are refused on the first try).

“It was really hard to find somewhere to live. Because I’m still waiting for my status, it made it so difficult to get benefits. When I first came to the UK with my brother, the Home Office couldn’t find us a translator. I was placed in a hostel and was there for a while. I’ve since moved in with my partner so I could be with her and my children, but because I decided to leave the hostel – they stopped all support”.

“I’d finished my course but couldn’t find a job”

Soulemann first came to Mustard Tree with his friend to register for a clothing voucher, and learnt about the training kitchen during his visit.

“I’d come with my friend for crisis support and was told about the Freedom Project (Mustard Tree’s life-skills and employability training placement) while I was there. They mentioned that there was a training kitchen to help learn new skills and that they could provide work placements in the city. I’d just finished a cooking course at the Manchester College, but was struggling to find work. I had a work permit but it’s so limited because it only covers for highly skilled and paid positions”.

As a destitute asylum seeker – Mustard Tree is one of the only options available for training, as Soulemann could not qualify for an apprenticeship or internship, and had no money to register for courses elsewhere. ‘Opportunity’ is one of Mustard Tree’s values, serving as a reminder that progression and development is at the heart of everything we do.

“I want to start my own business”

“I came to the induction day and said that I wanted to volunteer in the kitchen. After one week I was offered a placement on the Freedom Project. I met the Food Manager Chris, who helped me familiarise myself with a real working environment. It really helped me build my confidence, learn some new skills and gave me the opportunity to create my own meals for the volunteers and team.

I mentioned that I wanted to start my own business selling cakes, but needed to find work first so I could support myself and my family”.

With confidence growing, Soulemann decided to give Job Club a try, asking for help developing his CV with the goal of getting into work.

Soulemann graduating from the Freedom Project

“After I’d created my CV, Sophie from the fundraising team helped me get a two-week work placement at the Renaissance Hotel. It was a great experience and gave me an idea of how a real kitchen works. The team enjoyed working with me and wanted me to stay – but my lack of status was holding me back!”

Soulemann is now looking to secure his status with support from Mustard Tree. His Freedom Coordinator Ellie has written to the local MP and has also applied for destitution funding on his behalf.

“Getting my status will help in my goal for employment, and help provide for my family.

You can download our Freedom Project Enquiry Form here. For our Manchester central hub in Ancoats, please email the completed form to For our Salford hubs in Little Hulton and Eccles, please email to

You can also of course post it to us – find us here or for further information, please call us on 07803 428 709 / 0161 850 2282.

Click here form more information about our Freedom Project and how we can help.

© 2018 - Mustard Tree | Registered Charity No. 1135192 | Registered Company No. 04386613