Unaccompanied asylum seeker Salma, 14, describes the shock of arriving alone in a new country and how her Essex foster carers helped her every step of the way. Salma’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
It’s not easy to be seeking asylum in the UK when you come from a country that is completely different - food, clothes, school, language, lifestyle and, last but not least, the weather! When I first arrived in this country I felt so lost. I didn't speak any English. I had to spend some time in the police station, which was scary and uncomfortable.
When the social workers and the interpreter came to speak to me I just wanted somewhere warm to sleep and a shower. When my foster carer opened the door she was nice but I didn't know if I could trust her. I wasn't sure if she would feed me halal food. I was worried and I couldn't understand her.
I missed my family as we had become separated. When you are travelling you hear a lot of people telling you different things about what to expect when you arrive in England.
It was difficult for me to trust anyone as a lot of what they told me just wasn't true. In my country social workers don't exist and having lots of people and meetings was a bit strange.
I couldn't understand why everyone kept asking me questions. For the first few days I spent all my time with my foster carer. We went to get some clothes and pick up the children from school, we went food shopping and, as a family, we went out bowling and for pizza.
They encouraged me to join in with family life and supported me when I felt low.
The whole family made me feel welcome and comfortable and I always felt like part of the family. My foster carers worked hard to help me learn English and the children helped me to read and we played games together.
When I started school the teachers helped me a lot and some of the time I had one-to-one lessons. My foster carer also arranged extra tuition and encouraged me to join in clubs like dancing and volleyball.
My first Ramadan was difficult but my foster family found out as much as they could to help support me. They fasted with me and cooked special dishes.
They also invited my brother to a special Iftar meal. Most of all, when I was cross and grumpy or when I was tired and hungry, they were patient and kind. I have been on holidays, day trips and had lovely celebrations at Easter and Christmas.
I have learnt so much about living in the UK and hopefully that knowledge will help me and my family if we are given the decision that we can live permanently in the UK.
My foster carers feel like family to me now and my own family are happy that they look after me so well.
I feel more positive about my future and I have my foster carers to thank for that.
If you are interested in giving unaccompanied asylum seeking children a loving home by becoming a foster carer, please contact us.