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Today’s author, Gulwali, 19, arrived in the UK from Afghanistan six years ago. He left his life and family behind in search of safety and security.
Below, he reflects on hope as part of our Lent materials. Use these new resources to help you pray, reflect and discuss what poverty means for children and young people.
Have you used our BenevoLent app? It's a fun tool that allows you to calculate how giving up chocolate, clothes or anything, really, can help our work supporting vulnerable young people.
'No longer was I in fear for my life'
When I left home I didn’t expect to spend over a year travelling, to end up in the UK as a political refugee.
On arriving into this country at age 13 I was given food and shelter. This was basic but incredibly welcome after a year of insecurity and fear. No longer was I in fear for my life.
I had a roof over my head and I was no longer hungry. And yet, I didn’t feel safe. The authorities didn’t trust me. I understand they have to be sceptical but the mistrust meant nobody accepted my age. Some said I was too old for school, others too young.
The system seemed so unfair and unjust and my lack of understanding of English led to many confusions.
'It was a gift to be treasured'
My uncle lived in Bolton, yet initially I was not allowed to go to live with him. I felt caught in a really bad situation. Eventually I headed north and got to Bolton.
A real turning point was when I got to Starting Point, an international arrivals centre. The manager there helped me to see that I did have a future. She helped me access a place at high school and worked really hard to help me make sure I had the language and other support I needed. I eventually got a place at university.
It really shocked me that other pupils had no respect for the education they were receiving. It was a gift to be treasured, yet they were so dismissive.
A way to make a difference
My faith and cultural background taught me that I had to find a way to make a difference in the world. I began to recognise that there were many other young people facing the same situation I had faced.
I worked to ensure support was there for others. I worked with school to offer help to others. I wasn’t offered things on a plate, I had to fight and challenge inequality. I began to do that on behalf of others.
This sense of responsibility and duty continues to drive who I am and what I do. I am now studying politics and philosophy at Manchester University and serve on a number of committees influencing national policy. This includes The Children’s Commission on Poverty, supported by The Children’s Society. My desire is to return to Afghanistan to become president, where I will continue to fight and challenge inequality on behalf of others.
The Children's Commission on Poverty
Gulwali is a member of The Children’s Commission on Poverty, a group of 15 young people who will lead an investigation into what living in poverty really means for more than three million impoverished children and teenagers across the country.
Sign up today - follow the young commissioners on their journey, hear first about findings and see life through young eyes.