Maria’s story

Maria is a trans woman from El Salvador, she recently received the right to work and is working in a cancer ward support role.
Maria's story

Maria is a trans woman from El Salvador. She came to the UK in 2021 and got in touch with Micro Rainbow after claiming asylum in early 2022. El Salvador can be a very dangerous place for LGBTQI people, who face high rates of violence and homicide. Furthermore, trans Salvadorans are unable to change their names and genders on their IDs, which can restrict access to healthcare, economic opportunities, and other institutions. Maria worked as a doctor in El Salvador, specialising in cancer research. Read her story below: 

First claiming asylum

I first contacted Micro Rainbow in January 2022, after claiming asylum in the UK.  After receiving my Section 95 notice, I lived in a hotel in Milton Keynes for six months. I had made a Home Office request for a single room, because I knew that as a trans woman, I would not be safe sharing with someone else.


Living in the hotel was quite restrictive, but I kept myself busy. I asked for, and was granted permission to teach English to other asylum seekers in the hotel. This helped me to feel a bit more productive during my time there. I also volunteered informally as an interpreter for other Spanish speakers. The hotel staff were very helpful in providing me with teaching materials for the English classes I held.


Moving to Micro Rainbow housing

I had applied for Micro Rainbow housing as soon as I was placed in the hotel, and in October 2022 I moved into one of Micro Rainbow’s safe houses for LGBTQI asylum seekers in Birmingham. I was very happy to go there, and I felt much more freedom in the Micro Rainbow house. It felt like a safe space, and I was happy to be sharing with other asylum seekers from the LGBTQ community. We had similar backgrounds and shared some of the same experiences.


Moving to the West Midlands also meant that I was able to attend more of Micro Rainbow’s social inclusion programme events and other activities. I loved going to the regular dance sessions – it was a great way to disconnect from the asylum process and meet new people. I attended Micro Rainbow’s regular group for trans asylum seekers, both online and at in person events in London.

Micro Rainbow’s Moving On programme

After moving into Micro Rainbow housing, I was able to take part in some of the Moving On programme activities. In late 2022 I enrolled on Micro Rainbow’s 3-week Communications Masterclass. This was the number one most important opportunity that I took advantage of. The three-week long online course helped me improve my communication skills. I was able to practice interview skills as part of the course, and work on my confidence.


After the course ended, I continued to receive mentorship and support from the course leader. I also took part in other employability workshops through Micro Rainbow, and engaged in the mentoring programme with Weil. I took advantage of these opportunities to make sure that I was as ready for work as I could be.  


Right to work

In April 2023, I received the right to work. I am still an asylum seeker, but immigration rules mean that if you have been waiting on an asylum claim for more than 12 months you can request permission to work. (Learn more about the right to work and the occupation shortage list here).

After receiving this, I began applying for jobs right away. I knew I wanted to work in the medical field because of my background as a doctor, so I applied for roles through the NHS jobs portal. After interviewing, I secured a role as a Contact Support Worker in a cancer ward in Cambridge. I know that the help and mentoring provided to me through the Communications Masterclass helped me a lot.


New role and purpose

I have been in my new role for four weeks already. I have moved to Cambridge and am living in a Homeshare arrangement. It has made a huge difference to my mental health. I feel better about myself, I am giving back and contributing to society, and I know that I am really helping the patients I work with. Now I am working, I feel much more positive about my future in this country. I can wake up and have something to do in the morning, and I am using my knowledge and skills in my role. 


Now I am working, my professional goals also seem more achievable. I have already passed one of the exams I need to compete to verify my medical qualifications to eventually be able to practise medicine in the UK. RefuAid supported me in covering the cost of the examination. However, my current role is a permanent and stable, and I am happy in the meantime, while I wait for the outcome of my asylum claim.

Help us continue supporting LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers

Help other people like Maria, who are fleeing persecution because of who they are. Become a Micro Rainbow ally and support our safe housing programme.

Do you have a housing enquiry?

Do you have a moving on enquiry?


Afghanistan refugee protesters

Queer Afghanistan, what can we do?

Many people are asking us how they can support LGBTQI people fleeing persecution from Afghanistan. You can help us run a helpline in Pashto/Dari, buy winter clothes, volunteer as a counsellor and much more. Thank you for your support!

Runners from Wesley Gryk and Micro Rainbow at the Pride Run

Summer round up

Summer round of some the many activities that Micro Rainbow’s community has participated in over the last few months.

Rainbow Heart

Rahim’s story

Rahim shares his inspiring experience of how, after over a year of destitution and homelessness, Micro Rainbow’s moving on programme helped him get his foot in the door of a major UK retail company.