Croydon refguee hoping for a place at Oxford University after refusing to listen to advice he should settle for a job at Pizza Hut
For most 15-year-olds, revising for their GCSE is about as stressful as life is.
At this age, Adam Yasir was smuggled into Britain during a frightening journey that prevented him from being recruited to join the militia in his home country of Sudan.
Adam, who now lives in Thornton Heath, made the dangerous journey alone, hoping to find a safer life in Britain.
He doesn’t remember much of the trip except that it was “terrifying”.
When he arrived in Britain he was placed in a children’s home in Croydon by Surrey County Council, which became his “parent company”.
Now 30, he remembers: “My uncle said you were going to be in a safer place, if I stayed the militia would recruit me.
“I was smuggled out of there, I didn’t know much about the trip. I thought about it as a teenager and tried to connect the dots. I remember going through France and all the way to the UK. It was terrifying.
“I have contact with some of my family, most of the male part of my family has left the area for other places, including Chad, Uganda and South Sudan. On my mother’s side, most of them are in refugee camps.
As a child in a new country with no family around him, Adam was determined to get a good education and help others in the same situation.
He was first educated at a center run by the Refugee Council where he learned English before going to Croydon College.
Some of those who worked with him had low expectations of what he could accomplish, but Adam was determined to work as hard as he could to realize his potential.
“One of the social workers kept asking me ‘why do you want to study?’ They said ‘why don’t you go work at Pizza Hut?’ “, he said.
“I wanted to do [more than that] for many people in my family who haven’t had this opportunity, it’s the privilege of having access to education. I am passionate and eager to learn new things.
“I had every reason not to continue my studies, but I did not give up.”
At the age of 18, he was accepted to study at Goldsmiths University, but at the same time his asylum application was rejected by the Home Office.
He did not give up on his dream of going to college and after contesting the case for 18 months, he was granted asylum and continued to study international politics and development at East London University.
He also obtained a master’s degree in human rights and international relations from the University of Roehampton.
In 2018, he set up the 3E scholarship program to help young people affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy go to college.
He called on universities to get involved and the program has given 39 people access to higher education.
His time in the health care system led Adam to become an advocate for young people in the same situation as him.
Adam said: “It was really difficult, I had six houses in three years. You were moved with your things in plastic garbage bags, it was traumatic.
“I find young people, especially from BAME communities, becoming statistics in the health care system. Advocacy work is rewarding because it makes it easier for young people to get justice.”
He is now a full time independent youth lawyer and works with a range of local councils across London and the South.
During the lockdown, Adam turned a van into an RV which he uses as a mobile office for his work and goes on dates with young people.
Adam remembers being called to the office to meet with managers by his social workers and knows it can be stressful even having the money to get to the appointment.
“It was pretty intimidating,” he said. “I used to say, ‘Can’t we have a home meeting?
“In the van, I go to Brighton, I stop and we have total privacy. It is quite unique.
He says the van provides a safe space for young people and their social workers to meet and facilitates outreach and provides practical and emotional support.
“Young people love it,” he added.
And for the past several months, he’s used the van as a portable fitness center for some of the young people he works with, offering boxing and soccer training.
He added: “During the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about the impact on vulnerable people and the elderly in homes, but not so much on young people and children in foster care or in children’s homes.
“They also faced challenges, some were in foster care with only working adults, the kids want to go out and do something different.
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“A lot of the young people I work with are unaccompanied asylum seekers.
Adam wants to continue his advocacy work and has the ambition to continue his education. He applied for another master’s degree at the University of Oxford.
At the same time, he wants to build on what has already been achieved with the 3E scholarship program by establishing links with more universities to help both those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy and others facing the discrimination and marginalization.
He says his dream would be to offer a scholarship to a UK university to someone in a refugee camp within the next five years.