Mo shares his experiences as an asylum seeker and how Changes Bristol helped connect him to the wider community.
When I first signed up with Changes, I received a welcome call from Jen. We talked about everything and I explained that I’m an asylum seeker and that I’ve been struggling with my first few months in the country as I know no one here. She was really nice and very supportive and she suggested that I join the Walk and Talk and Keep Going Keep Growing (Changes’ outdoor wellbeing group). She also pointed out the groups and said that if I feel comfortable and wanted to share, I could join any of them.
Although there are lots of charities in Bristol that are aimed towards refugees and asylum seekers, I chose Changes because I wanted to feel part of the community and not just known as an asylum seeker. After I signed up, it took me a while to use any of the services. It felt hard to go anywhere and I didn’t feel confident enough to go to any of the groups. One day, I decided to go. I arrived and started to feel nervous, and I was just about to leave when Jen saw me and said ‘are you Mo?’. So I stayed. It felt natural and I felt welcomed by everyone. I went to the Walk and Talk the next day at St George’s Park.
After a few weeks, I talked to Lucy – a Psychology Placement student – about volunteering and asked her what it would be like. She said that they would love to have me as a volunteer. I first started volunteering on the Walk and Talks as that was the easiest role for me to start with. Jen and Alessandra were very nice, they sorted everything out for me.
During this time, I had my medical exams to get a licence to be a doctor in England (I passed!). Alesandra sent me an email to see if I was interested in training to be a volunteer for KGKG. The training was in Social Therapeutic Horticulture at Bath City Farm, which was very nurturing and rewarding. Everyone there was lovely. At the same time, I started training to be a volunteer facilitator. During my training, I went to a few groups as a training co-facilitator with the placement students who had already been there for many months, so it gave me the experience I needed to be comfortable to facilitate a group. Now I facilitate the St Werburgh’s group which has recently moved from St Paul’s.
I enjoy volunteering with KGKG as we do a lot of varied activities, especially during the summer, such as gardening and grounding techniques. We also do arts and crafts which is not something I would usually do on my own. Volunteering has given me the confidence to talk to others. It is something I struggle with, going somewhere new and being nervous, it stops me doing what I like. But with Changes, I felt comfortable from the first day I started attending. That’s why it didn’t take me long to start volunteering.
Being a doctor, one of the ways I look after myself is by helping others. As I wasn’t able to work as a doctor when I arrived in England, this was a good alternative for me and felt therapeutic. I have gained skills I can take further in my life, such as empathy and knowing how to respond when someone shares something personal with you. That’s going to help me when I start working as a doctor, to consider the mental health aspect of everything, and understand that mental health is as important as physical health. Patients usually have 10 minutes in their doctor’s appointment and this is often not enough. Places like Changes help the NHS by providing the time people need to speak about what’s on their mind. The fact that there is no referral or booking needed means people don’t have to wait weeks for an appointment to speak about their mental health.
I never thought I would be interested in pursuing mental health as a career, but seeing the struggle that people go through, I decided that I might do something in that field. I have applied for a Masters in Public Health for next year, and one of the things that inspired me and that I used in my application, is that I wanted to find solutions to issues within current mental health services.
From the moment I joined Changes Bristol, I have felt genuinely valued and appreciated not only by the staff but also by the members. Regular members hold great significance to me as they have provided unwavering support and genuine warmth. Their presence provides a sense of familiarity, comfort and belonging. Being part of the smaller community of Changes has connected me in some way to the larger community of Bristol, where individuals from diverse backgrounds come together to support each other. This was a wholesome experience for me, as I was new to the city and away from my family but Changes has made the transition a lot easier.
Changes Bristol offers diverse mental health services and a safe space for everyone where you can openly share whatever you are going through and receive support from others who might have faced similar struggles. The flexibility of attending and sharing allows you to engage at your own pace and how comfortable you feel. With Changes Bristol, you will feel heard, validated and most importantly assured that you will never walk alone.
- Support groups
- Safe Space Groups
- LGBTQIA+ Group
- In-person LGBTQIA+ group
- Women of Colour Group
- Men’s Group
- Women’s Group
- Money and Mental Health
- Telephone befriending
- Steps to recovery
- Your stories
- Walk & Talk
- Additional support
Barton Hill Settlement
41-43 Ducie Road