Mathias Banzi

I am a refugee from Rwanda. I came here in 2002. I didn’t know anything about the UK or anyone here. I felt completely isolated. After six months, I was granted my indefinite leave to remain. Before that I wasn’t allowed to work. They moved me around the country without any notice. That’s the refugee system in this country. 

I couldn’t communicate. I used to spend hours at the market, because I couldn’t understand the labels and what I had to buy. I knew I had to adapt myself.

I wanted to learn English. I used to spend eight hours a day in the library, going through books and listening to DVDs. I was married to Birmingham Library! Everyone knew me there and were so helpful.

I came to London, and I got married and we had two kids. I worked as a forklift driver and then I thought this wasn’t me so I went back to university. I did my BA in international and development studies and then I got my Masters degree but I was struggling to find a job. 

Meanwhile my wife had a back problem and she went through many operations. I decided to help her recover and raise my kids.

© Mathias Banzi

Learning from what helped my wife, I decided to join health and social care. I started as a carer. After six months, I was promoted. I became a registered manager. I just kept going.

I wouldn’t change anything about my career. You make a difference for those people who can’t help themselves. As a refugee, I think that’s a contribution to a country that has accepted me.

I hope to start my own business in the care sector. I’ve got the experience that’s given me a chance to learn and understand the nature of the business. 

I feel settled here. I’m married and I have two kids. They mean a lot to me. I have good friends. You still miss your country. You still feel like you are a refugee and the people who want to look down at you will do it.

The other day, I was told to go back home. I’m still here and I feel this is my home.