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Refugee Stories: Randy

Please be aware that the interviewee talks about the impact of traumatic events of his refugee journey. Teacher discretion is advised.
Length - 09:04
Published - Jun 2024
Keystage(s) - 3 and 4

Randy, a 19-year-old from Managua, Nicaragua, escapes political unrest and finds himself alone and uncertain in the UK. Forced to leave his family, he navigates the complexities of seeking asylum, experiencing fear and hope along the way. Amidst the challenges, Randy discovers a supportive community and a newfound sense of safety. As he adapts to life in Guildford, his dreams of studying physiotherapy in Liverpool take shape, symbolizing his resilience and determination to build a new life far from home.

This film was produced with the help of Big Leaf Foundation.

Refugee Stories: Randy

Randy:    My name is Randy I'm 19 years old and I'm from Nicaragua. I'm from Managua which is the capital of Nicaragua. I lived in a neighborhood with my family, which are my parents and my sister. One of my favorite memories is playing in my hometown with my friends, playing football in the streets, playing hide and seek. Yeah. My childhood was really nice. So when I was 13, I realized that there was a bigger issue in the political side of my country. Basically, I didn't realize that we had a dictatorship in 2006 and I was just living a normal life. But from 2018 and onwards, I just knew how bad the country situation was in terms of political government. It all started with the pension scheme change for the elderly, and then it started with the way that the government was managing the situation with the people protesting. These protests started being done by the university students and they were amazing. I attended many of them. Everything started to change when we realized that the government was putting people in jail, or even murdering people just because of the political situation. Unluckily, me and my family were living in a neighborhood which is mostly associated with this party. There are many people that work in the government and for the government, and that makes us in danger most of the time. I was 17 years old when I left Nicaragua.

 

This decision was made mainly by my parents, and I wasn't happy with the decision, but I knew that it was a thing that I had to do to be safe. I traveled by plane alone from Nicaragua to my next destination. I felt really scared and sad when I left by my own, because I didn't know what to expect of the new place that I was going to live in without my family. I lived in America for around two months with my cousins. We were undocumented. And at that moment my parents were going through a difficult economical situation, so they couldn't afford supporting me in the country. That was the reason why my cousins wanted me to work illegally. Which makes me feel less safe and made my parents should take the decision to send me to the UK. I took a plane from Miami to London, and throughout the journey I felt scared because I was going to claim asylum at the airport, and that made me feel frightened of what was going to happen. I was thinking that I could get rejected, that I could get deported back to Nicaragua or something like that. At the airport. The first thing I said to the officer was that I wanted to claim asylum in the UK. They put me into a room with more people trying to claim asylum. When I was in the room, I was looking at the window and I saw these people just coming into the UK or returning to the UK, feeling happy about it.

 

When I was feeling so scared of what was going to happen to me, and I had the uncertainty of not knowing what was going to happen. So it was a mix of emotions at that moment. When I arrived to the UK, I was 17 so I was still a child and child services had to take care of me. When a child service officer was driving me to my new location, I felt really relieved because I was more focused on getting to know the place, emersing in a new culture, and realizing the fact that I was in a completely different continent. I was just surprised about the fact that the UK drives in the other side of the road. Also the way that the houses are built with these orange walls and everything. So I really like that. When I was told that I was going to move to Guildford, I didn't know that it was a place. But then when I got there, I like the place because it was a small town, which meant I could walk anywhere. In Guildford I live in a supported accommodation with other young people. I felt comfortable because most of the people were asylum seekers as well, so we were in the same situation and these people were my age or younger or a little older than me, so I was comfortable with them. So after claiming asylum, I had to wait for around nine months and throughout these nine months I only was allowed to study, not to work. Then after nine months, I have my first substantive interview, which is the main interview. When they decide if you reject it or you're accepted in your asylum application. Unfortunately, I was rejected. And that made me feel that everything ended. Fortunately, with the support of a lot of people, I was able to go through the appeal phase, which took around 6 to 7 months for the hearing.

 

In November of 2023, I was granted refugee status by the Home Office, and that made me feel so happy and so relieved about my future. I was lucky because I had access to everything now. I could live like a normal UK resident, I could work, I could have access to student finance because my dream is to go to university here. So I could do that now. Hopefully in September 2024 I will be starting the physiotherapy course at University of Liverpool. I've always wanted to become a physiotherapist, but in Nicaragua I don't think that I would have done it. I don't think that it was going to be the pathway that I was going to choose, mainly because of the lack of opportunities to be a physio in Nicaragua. So if I would have stayed in Nicaragua, it was going to be the dream that I wasn't going to achieve. I miss my country, I miss Nicaragua, I miss my culture, my food, my family, my friends is just what you grew up with. And it's something that stays with you your whole life. My relationship with Big Leaf started one day after I moved to Guilford. I was just walking around Guilford, and then I received a text message from a number. Basically was just saying if I wanted to go to some music lessons and I didn't know how they got my number. But then I realised that my social worker gave them my number. I decided to go to the lessons, and I really liked the lessons, and I really like the way that they were treating me. I volunteer with Big Leaf in the Big Leaf Refugee Week, mainly in the organization of the event. After that, I've been doing some volunteering with them sometimes and some paid work sometimes. All of these experiences that I have with Big Leaf made me feel very proud of myself.

 

All of the achievement that I've done, being a young leader, being a volunteer now, being paid for my work and my contribution to the community, something that makes me feel very proud. I realized that I've been able to achieve things that I didn't know that I was able to. And yet, that just makes me feel happy. Being a refuge to me means being different, having to work hard every day. Giving yourself the permission to feel and knowing that you have the same opportunities as everyone. And you're equal to everyone, regardless of the ethnicity or your nationality. Now I have less worries compared to when I was living in Nicaragua or when I was living in America, because I feel more safe. I feel that my future is going how I want it to be, that I'm in the correct pathway to achieve my dreams. And I feel happy now.