Adi's story - YMCA DownsLink Group

Adi’s story

Adi smiling at the Youth Matters Awards with a pink glitter background

Adi is an unaccompanied asylum–seeking young person who was born in Eritrea and grew up in Ethiopia. Shortly after arriving in the UK, he was placed in our supported accommodation and was really keen to get involved in anything on offer. He’s acted in Shakespearean plays, won a national award and continues to inspire everyone he meets.


Adi tells us his story in his own words:

“I am East African, born in Eritrea and left when I was a child to live in Ethiopia. I am an asylum-seeking young person and my journey to the UK took me through many countries and I eventually arrived in the UK and moved into YMCA DownsLink Group.

As a child I loved to watch movies and so always tried to imitate the actors and their characters. I wanted to grow up to be just like them. I spent hours “entertaining” my friends pretending to be the movie stars and making my friends laugh. My favourite movies were American action movies and my favourite actor was Denzel Washington.

Jessica (YMCA Inspire Coach) introduced me to a local theatre group. They let me use a studio to practice and choreograph work, as well as get involved with touring dance companies, workshops and receive career advice. I also did some volunteering with them and was then offered a funded place at the Guildford Shakespeare Youth Company.

They put on the play Hamlet and we chose what character we wanted to audition for. I familiarised myself with Hamlet and practiced my lines with Jessica. It was funny because when Rob announced the Hamlet cast, he said another name for the part of Hamlet, he then went down the list and I was feeling disappointed not to hear my name. Then he finished with “Adi you will also play Hamlet” and I was like WAAAAT?! He said that we would share the part. I was so happy.

My biggest challenge was getting to know Hamlet, the character and understanding the language. I had to know the meaning behind the words, to be able to express them. English is not my first language.

I would like to thank Jessica from the bottom of my heart as she has gone above and beyond to help find opportunities for me.”

Adi at the Youth Matters Awards with his Inspire Coach Jessica and the Guildford Project Team.As well as his talent and love for the arts, shortly after enrolling at college Adi was fast–tracked from ESOL up to GCSE level classes and recently sat his GCSE English & Maths. Adi is really committed to his education and manages to travel the 3-hour round trip journey to college to finish his classes and sit his GCSEs.

Adi was also a finalist for the national YMCA Young Achiever of the Year Award for his incredible achievements in the face of adversity. He unfortunately missed out on the win but instead won the Lewis Sewell Memorial Award for courage, resilience and positivity. The award was presented by celebrated choreographer and original Strictly judge, Arlene Phillips.

Watching Adi’s face light up as he realised he was about to win was a moment we’ll never forget. In his acceptance speech, Adi said:

“I want to say thank you to the beautiful YMCA staff and the beautiful Jessica, this is all because of you.

I also want to say, especially to people that came from a poor background, from struggle or hard places, that where you came from is not who you are and it is clearly not where your destination is going to be. Me and the other nominees, are living proof of that.”

Not only did Adi win a shiny award with his name on, but also a donation in support of his journey in performing arts to help pay for training, equipment, travel to auditions etc. On top of this all, he also received an invitation to perform in their West End show next year! Watch this space…

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YMCA enables people to develop their full potential in mind, body and spirit. Inspired by and faithful to our Christian values, we create supportive, inclusive and energising communities, where young people can truly belong, contribute and thrive.

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