“…[I was] sent out of the country for a forced marriage”

Due to the sensitive nature of this story, some identifiable details, including names and locations, have been removed.

“I was taken out of school at the age of 10. When I was 15, my parents sent me out of the country for a forced marriage* to a man three times my age. They took my documents, including my passport, and left me stranded abroad with no documentation to prove who I was. It was a dark time; twice I attempted suicide**, and spent a lot of time in hospital trying to recover.

After some time, I started to seek help to return to the UK independently. I approached the British Embassy, but because I had no ID to show them, they refused to help. I got hold of an ID card from my old school, which meant the Embassy could take on my case.

I had multiple interviews with different people trying to verify my story. I couldn’t work out why the Embassy didn’t believe that I was who I said I was. It was later that year when a councillor explained the delay in granting me travel documentation was because my parents had officially declared me dead, meaning my passport was cancelled by the Home Office. This was the most shocking news of my life. I was devastated, and lost all hope for the future.

Eventually, I travelled back to London all by myself to start a new life. It was very difficult in the beginning; I was in and out of homeless shelters, and had no education or CV to support me into employment. It was local Job Centre referred me to the Spear Programme – and they are absolutely amazing.

Spear gave me practical support, like helping me find smart and professional clothes for interviews, supporting me to complete my first ever CV, and learn the art of writing cover letters. But they do so much more; the coaches actually understand your needs and what job you’ll be happy doing. They are so helpful and supportive, it’s been a real support network for me.

At the end of the six-week programme, we had a Celebration event. This was a big thing for me; I missed out on high school and college so had never had a graduation. Being presented with my Spear certificate is one of the big achievements in my life and I am so proud of it.

Through Spear, I’ve had lots of amazing opportunities. Now, I’m getting my education back on track with my Maths and English Level 2, and I have a position to start an Apprenticeship at a local Nursery.

I would recommend the Spear Programme to anyone and everyone. Now, my life is back on track and it’s all thanks to Spear. A big thank you to my coaches, I really appreciate everything you have helped me with and Spear’s amazing support.