By Natasha Nazir, STEP Worker

I remember so vividly when Faheem* first arrived at Step by Step. I will never forget the expression on his face. His eyes and body language projected fear, uncertainty, distrust and confusion. He appeared tired and defeated, both in body and mind.

And why wouldn’t he? Faheem was an asylum-seeking child who had faced adversity and trauma beyond our understanding. He had lost control of his life and people were making decisions for him. He was disoriented, with people around him speaking a language he could not fully comprehend. He could not understand why he was being transferred from one place to another.

But Faheem persevered. Step by Step accommodation staff took it upon themselves to make him feel as comfortable as possible. We knew that the best way to support Faheem was to gain understanding of his culture, and his likes, dislikes and interests.

We knew that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach would not work for Faheem. Just as we adapted to his particular needs, Faheem adapted to his new surroundings and we all grew in knowledge, skill and confidence in accommodating one another.

Very soon Faheem started engaging in one-to-one activities with the support of staff, such as cooking the food he liked, playing table tennis, going out to explore the town centre and attending the local mosque. He started taking one-to-one English lessons, which helped improve his English speaking and comprehension remarkably. He found trust, love and empowerment; we discovered a smiling young person who has slowly but surely started to believe in his potential, ability and skills.

Faheem is now a full-time student at a local college and studying English. It is such a delight to see him wave to us every morning when he leaves for college on his own, a young man growing in confidence.

He has now progressed to our Step 2 accommodation, which represents more independent living. He goes to the gym every day and now that he can express himself more easily, socialises with other young people accommodated with us. These are significant steps towards self-sufficiency.

I have worked with Faheem for around a year now and am humbled by his resilience, respect and gratitude for life’s little blessings. My heart fills with joy and admiration when I see him evolving every day.

And I’ve also learnt from him. He has taught me that with a little patience, love and understanding, you can make all the difference. It is not only about understanding the spoken words, but the silences as well. Patience, tolerance and belief in each and every young person we work with is the only way to challenge their distrust, hopelessness and disbelief in their abilities.

Faheem still has a long way to go. He will surely face more challenges in life, but I no longer see the fear, distrust and confusion in his eyes. I strongly believe that Step by Step has given him the opportunity, strength and the empowerment to face his challenges with calm and grace and we are all optimistic about his future.

*Name changed to respect privacy.

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