Real life • Real faith • Real world

< Back to Things to help me

When all the things you thought you had are gone

Connie Berko photo Connie Berko · 07 Aug, 2020

Connie recalls moving to the UK alone from Ghana aged 12 - a decision she had no part in - and her discovery aged 19 that she had been here illegally for most of the past 7 years.

My name is Connie, and I'm a youth worker. I thought I would share a bit of my life story with you today.

So I came to England from Ghana at age 12 to live with my aunt. My family thought that this was a good idea, except nobody really consulted me. Nobody asked how I felt about moving to a different country. I guess they thought that I was a child and they were doing what's best for me.

I travelled to England as an unaccompanied minor, which was by far the scariest, longest, and the loneliest nine hours I have ever experienced. When I got to England, everything was different. It was the biggest cultural shock ever. I felt so, so sad. Of course, I missed Ghana terribly. I felt like I lost everything I know and love. My school, my friends, my home. I literally had to unlearn and relearn everything.

Things at home with my auntie weren't great. So school was my only safe place. I had some really cool teachers and made some really nice friends. At school, I could be myself, I could be a child. I didn't have the responsibilities of cleaning up the house or caring for my cousins, or cooking. At school, I could relax, laugh, and play.

So at age 19, life just changed dramatically. I made a shocking discovery. I found out that I didn't have a UK citizenship. This means that I had no right to be in England. In fact, I never did after six months of being here. I quickly sought legal advice so I could apply to the Home Office to correct this. To make an application, I needed a lot of money, but most importantly, I needed a Ghanaian passport. To get a Ghanaian passport, I needed proof of UK Citizenship. I didn't have any. I couldn't get one without the other. So, felt like I didn't belong anywhere.

Just like that, I was battling with loss of identity.

It was going to take years to resolve or correct this. In the meantime, I couldn't travel. I watched my friends go on holiday without me that summer. And the summers after that. I couldn't go to uni, even though I had two university offers to study paediatric nursing. I couldn't learn to drive, I couldn't work. It was definitely a challenging time. Life was hard, I was so sad. I was in limbo, I was so confused.

This was going to be a fight, one I couldn't really give up on. I had to see this through to the end. My life depended on it. I decided I was going to be positive. I was going to keep a good mental and emotional wellbeing. I was going to make the most of all the opportunities and experiences that came my way. I was going to be hopeful. I was going to use my time to serve others.

My immigration status took nine years to resolve, nine years. A lot happened in that nine years, good and bad. In that time, I just learned to be patient. I learned forgiveness. I had to forgive my auntie for not sorting things out in the first place when she brought me to the UK. I had to forgive people who tried to take advantage of me. People who tried to look down on me because of my situation. I learned to stand up for myself. I learned kindness. Because people were kind to me.

Sometimes I get sad that things took so long to resolve. I wish I didn't have to spend all that time fighting for my case with the Home Office. Nine years was a long time, I could have achieved an awful lot given the opportunity and freedom. But then other times, I feel like things turned out exactly how they were supposed to. Perhaps I would be a completely different person if I had not gone through those experiences.

I'm now one of the most resilient people I know. I know that I can go through hard things and make it through with God and friends, family supporting me.

I guess I decided to be a youth worker because I know the difference it makes to a young person's life when they have people or someone to show interest, to listen, to walk alongside them. Having gone through all that I did as a young person myself. So I'm Connie and I'm a youth worker.

Previous

When normal life turns to anxiety

When normal life turns to anxiety

Next

How to get through when your plans fall apart

How to get through when your plans fall apart