Being evacuated from Sudan, homeless in Colchester and now giving back to CENS, Musaab’s story is quite incredible
“I was born in the UK, but left with my family when I was five. I returned to the UK in the 90s to pursue my studies and work – I lived and worked in Colchester until 2014. However, when my mother needed me to care for her, I returned to Sudan and was there when the war broke out. It was very frightening. I could hear gun shots and fighting from my house – it basically became a lawless country.”
Escaping the war zone
“One day there was a notification for UK Nationals to say that we could go to a military airport to be evacuated. I was relieved, but to even get to the airport was a challenge. Nobody would risk leaving their homes because it was a war zone. Thankfully, I found someone and paid him to drive me there. We went through different check-points, luckily for us it was the military not the paramilitary who they were fighting.
“I was greeted by a mixture of British, German and Austrian soldiers. They provided me and the other evacuees with food and drink – they were very kind and supported us. We flew out the following morning to Cyprus and stayed there for a few hours and after that to Stansted. When we got there it was night time, we were met by people from the Home Office who gave us phones with sims to contact loved-ones. It was a relief to be in the UK.
“For that night, I stayed in a hotel. In the morning I went back to the airport and was asked where in the UK I wanted to go. I had worked and lived in Colchester and new the place well so asked to come here.
Homeless in the UK
“I was sent to the Premier Inn here, and the following morning I contacted the Local Authority but there was no evidence of my situation. I was so worried and felt totally let down. Thankfully, I made contact with a wonderful charity called RAMA. They were so nice and paid for another few nights in a hotel. They also made contact with CENS which I’ll always be grateful for. I got a phone call back that day from someone and was greeted by Debbie. I could tell straight away that I would be ok here. Debbie and all the staff go out of their way to help people.
Life at CENS
“My experience at the shelter couldn’t be any better. Everybody made me feel welcome and I made friends with the other residents. During the day, I would go for long walks and make the most of Colchester Castle. I enjoyed going to the library as well. My breakfast and dinner was provided for – life was good!
“CENS’ manager Marina found me a lovely place of my own. She took me to see it herself and I thank her to this day because I couldn’t have found somewhere better myself.
“It was half-furnished when I moved in which was great. By chance, I met my old landlord from 2014 in the street who was generous enough to give me some other bits and pieces – people are so kind. Although I have no qualms with how CENS is run, now I can come and go as I please, I am free.
“Recently, CENS has asked me to help with another resident who also speaks Arabic. I have been going to appointments with him and helping him to understand the process of how things work. It is a pleasure to give back to the charity that has helped me so much. I’m also starting some training soon which will help me look for work. I thank everyone here and Maria at RAMA for all the opportunities I have had.”