Life before Micro Rainbow’s social inclusion programme
I was signposted to Micro Rainbow by another charity. At the time I was about to be evicted and I desperately needed somewhere to stay. Micro Rainbow arranged for my stay at emergency accommodation as the Home Office refused my initial accommodation request.
At first, I didn’t join any of the social inclusion events because I didn’t know if I was going to fit in. I grew up in a very homophobic country and there was a lot of self-loathing going on. It took quite a long time for me to be comfortable with who I am, but I guess I just wasn’t comfortable enough to be my true self around others yet. Thinking back, that thought was quite ridiculous as it took away opportunities to make more friends.
The limbo of the asylum process ultimately took a huge toll on my mental health, and I couldn’t stand being trapped in my own thoughts for another second. I tried to keep myself busy and I started taking English lessons with RefuAid. During this time I spoke to a member of staff at Micro Rainbow and she encouraged me to sign up for one of Micro Rainbow’s social events. I told her about my love for music. It was through her recommendation that I started joining their songwriting sessions.
Due to the pandemic, all of Micro Rainbow’s programmes were held online. During one of the events, I was split into a breakout room with a few other people. In this breakout room, I met my current group of best friends. One girl had a guitar in the background, and she was the one who realised we were living in the same accommodation.
Prior to meeting my friends, I had always isolated myself in my room revising for my exams. Focusing on revising helped me cope better with the limbo. To me, it was the only thing I had control of in my life. I can study and control how well I do in my exams. Staying in my room all day meant I had never hung out in the common rooms in my accommodation. I also feared persecution, I didn’t want to go through that ever again. I knew I was safe in my room.
After the Micro Rainbow event, my best friends and I decided to meet up since we were living in the same accommodation. We agreed to meet at the common area which I had avoided all this time. After some comical miscommunication, we all found each other and clicked immediately. The girl with the guitar became my guitar teacher. I’ve always thought that I’ve got a terrible voice, but she has always been so supportive and encouraged me to sing.
The other girl can be quite clumsy, and she would constantly get herself into tricky situations. However, she is the kindest person I have ever met. She doesn’t do a good job of looking after herself, but we make sure to look out for her. The last member of the group is a gay man just like me and he would always make sure that I explore the gay scene to its fullest. He’s very comfortable in his own skin and is not bothered by other people’s views. We all help each other out. Whenever we were depressed or not feeling good, we always knew that we could rely on each other.
When my friends moved out of our accommodation, it was quite difficult. The girl with the guitar used to sit on the emergency staircase and just sing. When I miss her, I would open the door to the staircase and reminisce about the good times.
We still meet up every Sunday. We get coffees and talk about the most ridiculous things. It’s nice to just be able to talk about guys with other people. Sometimes we walk around Soho, giggling and poking each other every time a hot man passes by. We’re like a group of teenage girls, but it’s so much fun. When I’m with my friends, I can forget all my troubles.
Tips for building found family
For those trying to make friends, I encourage you to put yourself out there. Similar to dating, you have to take a step forward and make yourself known to others. If I had remained stubborn and not joined the social inclusion programme, I would not have met my amazing group of friends. Even if you are afraid and that your efforts will be futile, keep attending events. Fate has a way with people and what’s meant to be will happen eventually.
I am very introverted, and I am usually not the first person to start a conversation, but I went to a social event and the girl with the guitar spoke to me. Now we are best friends. How this all happened still baffles me, but it shows how important putting yourself out there is. You don’t know who you are going to meet. I also recommend finding people who will care about you and understand what you are going through. My friends and I, we understand each other better than anyone. They know my situation and it makes it easier for me to talk about my struggles on an intimate level with them since they understand what I am going through. That also made celebrating each other’s successes more gratifying.