“I couldn’t have got here without the support I’ve had”

Kajwan Jabary came to Bolton as an asylum seeker six years ago. Back then, aged just 15, he escaped his home country of Iran because he wasn’t safe there. Leaving his family behind, and unable to speak English, the teenager faced an uncertain future. But with support, and through his own determination, he’s now part of a community, creating a better life for himself and inspiring others.

“I had to leave Iran because my father worked in politics and my life was at risk. When I arrived in Bolton, I was placed with a foster family. It was such a relief to be safe but the language and culture took some getting used to, and I missed my family in Iran. It took about a year for me to adapt and feel settled.

“After leaving school, I went to Bolton College to study ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) for two years. This really improved my language skills and gave me the confidence to move on from my foster family. I was put in touch with Backup, an organisation that provides housing and support for young people in Bolton. I was given a support worker and they found a flat for me.

“Living alone at 17 was both exciting and daunting. I had my independence but I also had to manage on a budget of £56 a week and do my own cooking, which I hadn’t done before. I learnt to cook the traditional Kurdish food I’d grown up with by watching YouTube videos.

Backup gave me a lifeline

“It was always reassuring to know that Backup were there to support me whenever I needed them. My support worker helped me to access education and health services, and would come to appointments with me.

“When I finished the ESOL course, I wanted to continue my studies and work towards a career. I liked the idea of being a barber so I applied for the three-year barbering course at Bolton College. I was rejected twice but I wasn’t going to give up. After a third application, and with advice from my support worker, I got onto the course.

“It was always reassuring to know that Backup were there to support me whenever I needed them.”

Now I’m winning awards

“I’m now in my final year and I know that barbering is the only job I want to do. My passion for the work has led to me winning three awards in the last two years. The last one was a national competition run by the Association for Hairdressing Teachers. I was competing against 15 other finalists. It was nerve wracking, especially with only 30 minutes to create a style, and I couldn’t believe it when they announced me as the winner!

“Last August I moved into a Bolton at Home property, where the Tenancy Support Service gives me ongoing support. I was able to access a furniture scheme and got a washing machine, fridge and cooker – all the things I would have struggled to buy.

“My next step will either be university or securing work as a full-time barber. If I do the university course, I’ll be able to teach barbering in college. I’d like to pass on my skills and enthusiasm to others. Whichever route I take, one thing’s for sure. I couldn’t have got here without the support I’ve had. I love living in Bolton; there’s a strong community spirit here that’s helped me, and others like me, rebuild our lives.”

Bolton at Home works to make people’s lives better and for the good of our communities. As such, we’re a guardian and proud supporter of Backup (formerly Bolton Young Persons Housing Scheme). The charity provides vital housing and support services for homeless people aged 16-25 in Bolton. The Backup team helps young people improve their confidence, life skills and mental wellbeing so that they’re able to move on to independent living.

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