Negussu is 40 and was born in Eritrea, but the family moved to Ethiopia when he was six as his father got work there as a truck driver for a bank. Negussu is the middle of five children, with two brothers and two sisters, two older and two younger than him.
When he finished school in 1990 Negussu worked as motor electrician for an Italian company, a skill he still has but would require UK qualifications for him to practise here. Negussu is also a licensed driver of any size car, but again needs to get a UK driving licence to be able to drive here.
In 2004 because of the war with Eritrea, Negussu left Ethiopia and came to Britain seeking asylum. All his family had left Ethiopia before him, going to Kenya and Dubai. Negussu changed his name and paid money to a business set up to arrange false passports and transportation out of Ethiopia. Negussu knew no one at all in the UK and gave himself up as he landed at the airport. He was detained and moved to Barnsley to a hostel in June 2004. Negussu received his official papers to remain and work in the UK in February 2010.
“It is very hard not to be able to work for six whole years when you have worked all your life,” he says, “the time passes so slowly”. The frustration he has felt at not being allowed to contribute is visible on Negussu’s face. “I like to work, I am a hard worker.” He spent a lot of time staying at home or doing as much English language training as he could access. The relief at now being able to get started again is also very evident.
Two months ago Negussu got a flat of his own, his first home. Negussu joined the very first Create Potential Academy in June 2010 and says it has been very good for him, particularly the voluntary work which he has enjoyed.
“The work experience in the warehouse and cafe has been great, it has really increased my confidence and made me feel ready for work. Being at the Academy has been good, I’ve felt part of a team and made new friends too.”
Negussu is still working hard at English lessons and improving his maths. In the future he hopes he will be able to use some of the skills he trained for in Ethiopia, possibly studying electrical engineering. His next step is paid work that will make him independent.
Negussu travels everywhere on his trusty bike and never claimed a penny in travel costs in 12 weeks on the Academy course, of which he is very proud. Wearing his Create t-shirt for all to see, “Look, I am a living advertisement,” laughs Negussu, “I tell all my friends about it.”
Negussu secured paid employment with Morrisons new supermarket at Harehills, Leeds at the end of the Academy and started work on 11 October 2010.