It was my first time on a plane; the first time I’d left home; the first time away from my mum too. I was 16 years old.
When I arrived in the UK from Eritrea, I was happy and sad at the same time. It was so important to be here; to have left the problems that I had back home; to be free; to be me without fear.
But I missed my mum and I blamed myself for leaving her on her own and using the little money we had to travel here.
After I arrived I went to the Social Services in Camden. They gave me a bed-sit and a keyworker. I felt sick because I had never seen so many people in one place and I had never been underground.
That evening I cried all night and I couldn’t sleep, but in the morning my keyworker came and took me to show me supermarkets and buy me some food. She explained everything and I felt better. She still helps me now, and I’ve got a social worker who helps me with my asylum application and college.
I am so thankful that I get so much help in this country. I got this chance to live here and go to school, and I want to use it to help young people in my land.
Eritrea gained its independence in 1993 after a war with Ethiopia that lasted many years. Both countries spent millions of dollars on warplanes and weapons, and about 80,000 people were killed.
That is why Eritrea is one of the poorest countries in the world. There are people there that live like Europeans, but many people are poor and don’t have the basic things to live like food, shelter and clothes.
I was born in Eritrea but I grew up in Ethiopia because of the war. My family returned to Eritrea in 2000 when I was nine or ten years old. It was difficult for my family to start a life there because they couldn’t take their property or the money they had earned in Ethiopia. But the main problems was our religion.
We are Pentecostal Christians, at the time this was a religion which was suspended in Eritrea. If you worshiped, it was a crime and you go to jail no matter how old or young you are.
It seemed like there would be no end to the war in Eritrea, and if you were 15 or above you had to join the army, so many young people left the country illegally.
If they caught you when you crossed the border you were sent to jail.
Despite all of the problems that existed I really loved my land. I missed things I never thought I would: the way that we spent all day outside playing with stones or balls that we made ourselves; the songs that I used to sing; the animals that lived with us like goats and chickens; the way the women dressed; the way my mum cooked; the foods that I hated when I was there; the sun that shined every day.
I would like to see my mum. I want her to come here and see how life is, but so much has changed there, and I can’t go back because I left the country illegally.
If I go back, according to the government, I am a criminal.