The story of girl, 16, who swapped war-torn Somalia for Erdington


Mirfat left behind her mum and family in east Africa to seek safety in Birmingham


A teenage girl forced to flee war-torn Somalia and move to Birmingham without her family has told of her struggle, saying: “I felt lonely.

Aged just 16, young refugee Mirfat left behind her mum and family in east Africa to seek safety and moved to Erdington all alone.

The desperate teenager, upon arriving in B23, revealed how she felt “scared” and questioned: “No way can I survive here.”

Now 18, Mirfat said: “Arriving in the UK it felt different and scary.

“I thought, ‘No way can I survive here’.

“It was such a horrible experience to go through when you’re young.

“I felt lonely, I couldn’t sleep or eat.

“All I wanted was my mum and my family. I just wanted to go home.”

Mirfat reached rock-bottom but Erdington proved to be the best place for her at the time.

She soon joined Surviving to Thriving, a project which helps to rebuild the lives of refugee children.

“Surviving to Thriving gives young people the opportunity and motivation to think that it doesn’t matter how you look or what your refugee status is,” explained Mirfat.

“You can do anything in your life.

“The project helps you to make more friends, build your confidence and improve your English because we don’t have family, we don’t know anyone.

“It gives you hope because most of us who come here we have no hope.”

Through the project, Mirfat has spoke to figures able to influence changes – big and small – to impact the lives of young, displaced people for the better.

In February, she joined a presentation at Parliament and spoke to MPs Catherine West and Christine Jardine about the right to work for people seeking asylum.

Today, on International Women’s Day, Mirfat wants the experiences of young female refugees and people seeking asylum to be recognised as a source of strength.

“I see that women here have power so that gives me motivation and confidence,” she said.

“If any girl has been through the experience of coming to the UK alone then she’s brave. She has a stronger mind than anyone.

“I want to show that women can do anything. I wasn’t always confident — I am now. The sky’s the limit for me.”

  • Through players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the project has provided over 236 vulnerable children and teenagers in Birmingham with the life and leadership skills, advice, and mental health support to rebuild their lives and to thrive.



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