Dawit is 34, an only child born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His family was originally from Eritrea and in 2000 (the end of the 1998-2000 war between the two countries) when he was 24, they were deported back to Eritrea. Dawit worked as a tailor in Eritrea and is a Pentecostal Christian.
In 2002 the government of Eritrea declared a short list of acceptable religions including Orthodox Christianity or Islam and proceeded to persecute those practising other minority religions. Many people were caught and put in prison.
In 2003, Dawit’s father died and he was put in prison for his faith where he remained for three years under dreadful conditions. He was asked many times to give up his faith but he refused. He cooked for the prisoners whilst inside the prison. His mother died whilst he was a prisoner.
One day when he was working as forced labour on building roads outside the prison there was a huge car crash and Dawit broke free. He managed to get to his uncle who owned a large flour mill. His uncle arranged everything for Dawit to flee the country as he was in fear for his life and he spent $4,000 to get Dawit to Yemen safely. In turn his uncle had to flee to Sudan for safety. In August 2005 Dawit arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker.
Dawit has lived in Sunderland for most of this time, where he met his girlfriend who is originally from Ethiopia and together they have a daughter and a son. They received their official permission to remain and work in the UK in 2010, and moved to Leeds in the hope of finding more work opportunities.
He met Negussu, who is also from Eritrea, in Leeds. He took him along to an adult education centre and there they both learned about Create’s Academy which they joined in June 2010.
I ask him what he thinks of the programme:
“I am so happy, so very happy. How can I explain how happy this course makes me? I have learned so many things here.”
Dawit’s work experience has been in the business areas of warehouse distribution and a city centre cafe. Dawit talks animatedly about his time in the warehouse and all he learned about stock rotation, storage, temperatures and conditions, expiry dates, processing orders. He is particularly positive about the impact of working in a team and the sense of achievement he gets from this.
“The work experience I have now is huge and it has given me so much confidence.”
Dawit goes on to talk about the cafe and how he has done the cleaning, the cooking, worked on the till, he’s tried every area of work. He is very proud of the feedback from the customers when they praise him and he loves helping customers out, building relationships with the regulars.
He smiles broadly when he says, “In my country it is always the women who cook and clean but now I go home and help my girlfriend. I like to cook for her, we share the tasks – sharing and growing together is good. We are a European family now!”
Dawit is keen to work but is also very keen that his future plans involve a lot of volunteering – he wants to help others as he has been helped.
“Volunteering like this is good for you,” says Dawit. “It really helps. It stops people staying in their house alone, people meet other people, it gets them active – it’s good for the brain and good for God. Helping people gives me a huge satisfaction on the inside – the most important thing.”