Abdulai – Goal Next Gen Series

1/4 “Some people have allergies to foods, like nuts or seeds, while some people have allergies to pollen. I have a serious allergy to injustice; and growing up in Sierra Leone, I experienced a lot of it. The only way to have a better quality of life in Sierra Leone is through education. However, proper education is only available in cities, so young people’s dream is to move to the city to get the education they need. Unfortunately, people living in cities often exploit this situation by using students as servants in their houses and abusing them in every way you can imagine. And because the students don’t have any other options, they have to accept it. All of this is kept secret from the younger people in the villages because you don’t want them to be scared of pursuing the education they need.

When students return to the villages, they are celebrated for striving to create a better future for themselves and their families. They never talk about the abuse. I had to endure this for a decade, but just when I finished secondary school, my dad died, and being the eldest male in the family, I had to return to my village to take his place. The abuse and the injustice had stayed with me and because I didn’t have the opportunity to go to University, I decided to find a way to create a network to protect the younger generations. I organized a foundation, a charity that helped less privileged kids through education and served as a safety net to reduce the chances of abuse.

This abuse is an integral part of a complex corrupt political system, so when the charity took off, I became a target. I began to receive death threats, and to protect my family, I was forced to leave Sierra Leone. The only opportunity I got was to get a one-way ticket to Ireland. I was hoping for a better start here, but unfortunately I ended up spending over three years in Direct Provision.”

2/4″The night I left Sierra Leone, I felt like I was betraying my people and the ideas I had been working towards. I had a heavy sense of guilt, but I had no other options. I knew that if I wanted to continue to make a meaningful difference, I had to leave my country. I arrived in Ireland in November, with no idea about the climate. The lowest temperature I had ever experienced back home was like a nice summer day in Ireland. I arrived wearing just a t-shirt, and I still remember vividly when they opened the plane door, and the freezing wind hit my skin for the first time. It took me three attempts to leave the plane as I was in shock.

I entered the asylum process and was sent to a Direct Provision centre. It was really tough, I didn’t expect what was waiting for me. I thought that Europe was very concerned about democracy and human rights, so I didn’t think these would be the main challenges I would face. I was placed in a tiny room with three adult men from different countries and cultures in a hostel housing over 80 males, located in the middle of nowhere. Our freedom was severely restricted, and we faced numerous mental challenges adapting to this new reality. It felt like a prisoner and there were times when I wasn’t sure if I would make it out.

As I mentioned earlier, I am allergic to injustice. I can’t stand it; it disturbs me deeply when I sense it, and I feel compelled to do something about it. I experienced so much injustice that I made it my goal to bring about change.

At one point, I decided to engage with the management and proposed the idea of organising a support group connecting people to services like Social Welfare, Education, and Mental Health services because they didn’t even have those in place. In a nutshell it ended up being so successful that it enabled many people to leave Direct Provision, find jobs, and integrate into society.”