I thought moving to the UK would be a smooth process. In France, I’d been an English teacher for four years. I had a good job, a good education, and I’d managed to save up 5000 euros to fund the first few months of my life here.
I knew I wouldn’t find a teaching job straight away but, since I was well-qualified, I was confident I’d find one soon enough.
Once I was in the UK, I rented a flat using my savings and started looking for a job as an English teacher. I got invited to lots of interviews, but I was never offered the job.
Every interviewer I met told me I was missing a crucial document that proved I was qualified to teach English in the UK. At £280, it was a document I couldn’t afford.
You see, within a few months of being here, my savings had almost gone. After paying my rent and living costs every month, I didn’t have much else to live on.
I decided to get a job as a cleaner for two hours a week, which helped me earn an extra £160 a month. I was really disappointed I wasn’t teaching, but I knew I had no choice. Before long, I wouldn’t even have money for food.
When I first found out about the National Zakat Foundation, I wasn’t sure they’d help me. I mean, I wasn’t living on the streets and I wasn’t from a troubled home. It seemed like there were people who needed their help more than I did.
But after talking to a Caseworker, it was clear she understood that I was stuck in a vicious circle I couldn’t get out of alone.
I’d even given up on being an English teacher and applied for a teaching assistant role, even though I knew I was overqualified for the job.
Once I was offered the role, I realised I couldn’t afford to buy the mandatory uniform or pay for my travel costs to get to work. If I’d paid for them out of my own pocket, I wouldn’t have had money for food that month.
I was devastated and by this point I was starting to regret ever coming here. I’d done everything I was supposed to, but I still couldn’t seem to secure a stable future for myself.
But my Caseworker saw a way NZF could help.
She told me they’d pay for my uniform and cover my travel costs until I received my first month’s salary.
NZF even found out that the French Embassy would provide me with the documentation I needed for free. It’s hard living in a country that isn’t yours; in a culture and system you don’t understand. Without NZF’s help, there’s no way I would’ve found out about the embassy’s support.
They didn’t just give me financial assistance, they gave me the support system I desperately needed.
NZF didn’t judge me. They didn’t tell me to just go back to France or give up on being a teacher. They saw that I had a skill to offer this country and they encouraged me to keep going.
Now that I’m earning £1100 a month, I have all the resources I need to work towards becoming an English teacher again. I’ve got a stable job and a lovely home; all the basics I need to survive – which means now I can focus on living. I can start thinking about making friends, being happy, and building a real life for myself here in the UK.
It’s hard to believe I was ever in a situation where I didn’t have food. My family isn’t rich, but they’re certainly not poor. Before moving to the UK, I’d never had to choose between paying my rent or eating.
If this could happen to me, it could happen to anyone. I thank God that an organisation like NZF exists for people like me who suddenly find themselves in desperate need.
The National Zakat Foundation uses Zakat to support individuals in a transformative way, so they can be self-sufficient. Stay up-to-date with all our latest insights, stories, research and news – subscribe here for our monthly newsletter.
National Zakat Hotline: 03333 123 123 (Monday – Friday, 10am – 6pm, local rates) or apply online apply.nzf.org.uk
This post is based on a true story.