We sat down and spoke to Bleain, with the idea of writing a story for International Women’s Day. What we got was a humble, strong, inspiring woman who had a simple goal: Settle, support her son and give back. She, like many of the most inspiring people, did not want the spotlight, but was happy to share her story with the idea of giving others hope that things will be okay.
In 2007 Bleain fled Eritrea seeking safety and stability. Her journey took many months, but finally she arrived in the UK in February 2008. This was just the start of her long road to a settled life in the UK, which would eventually lead to her supporting new arrivals just like her.
Bleain was initially housed in Birmingham and started to build connections within the community. She was then moved to Stoke for a short time, where she heard her asylum application had been refused. Unfortunately, this is the case for many Eritreans, despite a despotic regime back home. Over the years organisations have seen wide fluctuations in the Home Office guidance on Eritrean cases.
Having friends living in London, Bleain had little choice but to go and stay with them once refused. She was no longer entitled to any support, was not allowed to work, travel or access benefits of any kind. For four years she remained destitute and during this time she gave birth to her child.
Back into the system
Her case was reviewed at this time and Bleain was put back into the asylum system in 2012, and moved back to Birmingham into a shared house with six adults and six babies. Needless to say, it was a busy household.
Yet Bleain still wanted to help others, and in 2013 began volunteering at a local convent as a receptionist, supporting the team however she could. She continued this for six years and during that time was referred to Restore (befriending project), who were able to assist with some of the housing issues and eventually helped her move into more suitable accommodation.
Once her son was in school, Bleain took on a college course alongside her volunteering, developing her English, IT skills and more. If this wasn’t enough, she also helped out during the holidays at her son’s school to run the holiday groups. Bleain was not good at sitting doing nothing. “If I sit, I think about things too much.”
Building a new life
In 2019, 11 years after initially becoming an asylum seeker, Bleain was granted refugee status. She could now start building her own life, look for work and provide for her son. Or so she thought.
In 2020 when COVID hit, just as for the rest of the world, everything stopped for Bleain. Her courses, her volunteering, her options to work. Everything. So once she had the chance and the world was opening up again, she arrived at the Refugee and Migrant Centre seeking some real life work experience and to help those in a similar situation.
She began volunteering, using the skills from her previous volunteer roles and her learning at college, and working alongside RMC’s receptionist. She quickly became a part of the team, while still helping at her son’s school, now as a school governor.
In January 2022 she was encouraged to apply for a new role at RMC of Reception & Admin Support. Although nervous, she beat all the competition to earn herself her first job in the UK and have the chance to finally feel settled.
She is now thriving in her role, her son is preparing for his 11+ exam, hoping to get into grammar school and life is looking up. Bleain never gave up but she always gave back.
As well as being incredibly grateful for all those that helped her, supported her and got her to where she is today, Bleain spoke of the importance of patience and hope:
“One day everything will be changed. For the first two or three years I cried because of my situation. People struggle mentally with what they go through. I don’t want that for people. You have to be strong, accept the difficulties and know things will change.”