As part of Refugee week, we’re introducing you to some of our Volunteers – this is Linton’s story, about how her came to volunteer at LCoS, and all the helpful things he does for us, improving the lives of other Asylum Seekers and Refugees!
“I fled my country after getting bullied and tortured by the police. I went to a boarding school where the headmaster was one of the provincial ministers of the ruling party. We were forced to go to political rallies every day and pledge allegiance to the government, which myself I was like no, I’m not doing that.
So it started there. I got into trouble. When I turned 17 or 18, I started to fully support the other party, going to demonstrations, getting arrested, going back to protest again. When you believe in something, the more you are pushed away, the more you want to go for it: I wanted change for myself, for my future.
But the thing that nearly broke me was when I got tortured. I was in a police cell where you could hear people being beaten up, being tortured, knowing your turn is coming. When the ordeal finally came, I blacked out. Concerned about my safety, my dad put me on a flight to England and I told the authorities I had been tortured. They didn’t believe me. They said there are no signs of torture, but by that time my scars were mental, not physical.
The process of seeking asylum took years and years: being denied, sleeping on the streets, being homeless and moving around everywhere and anywhere.
When I came to Leicester City of Sanctuary for the first time I was welcomed by the people there. It became my new home, with people from my own community and different communities too. There were people I could relate to and share with. I took food parcels from LCoS to keep me going and
access to the computers there really helped me to progress my case. LCoS encouraged me to go forward and I met people who had survived and got their leave to remain, which helped me carry on, even with all the refusals. Without LCoS I wouldn’t have found the people who helped me fight
my case. You are depressed but the minute you get here you forget for a while because of the people to share with. We are a family, even new people quickly become part of the family.
Soon I was trying to do the same thing for the people who come to our centre and I started volunteering. I wanted to give something back using the talents I have which are cooking. I started running the kitchen, doing the shopping and cooking the lunch. I’ve always liked to help people. These people have nothing at all, it might be the only proper hot meal they get in the week. Waking up going to the drop-in made me feel like I’ve achieved something for that week, meeting old friends and making new ones. Many people think I helped the drop-in but actually it is the other way round, the drop-in helped me by taking my mind off my problems.
In 2016 LCoS gave me the opportunity to run my own cooking project, teaching other asylum seekers how to cook. Later this project was funded by SoftTouch and ArtReach and eventually turned into the Global Kitchen. When I finally got my leave to remain I got a reference from the Global Kitchen project and that helped me find a job as a chef.
But you can’t go away from LCoS and not come back. I will never forget my roots. I need to come back to see my friends and family, and I still volunteer when I can, fitting it in round my job. In 2019 I decided to cook the entire meal for the LCoS Christmas Party as a special treat. I wanted to surprise people, to use my skills and to enjoy Christmas with my friends. It was the best party ever, but I couldn’t join in the dancing, I was too busy in the kitchen.
Leave To Remain in England is the biggest thing I’ve achieved. The right to work and support myself, the right to have my own house and pay for it and pay my bills. I’m a survivor to have reached this far. When I came to this country, I wanted to travel the world. Now I can do that.”