Nader's story - YMCA DownsLink Group

Nader’s story

Nader stood in the garden in a blue sports tshirt holding up two certificates of achievement

Nader has been living in our supported accommodation for just over a year. He left his home country when he was just 14 and after a difficult journey he arrived in the UK as an unaccompanied asylum seeking child. Nader was given a home at YMCA DownsLink Group and was supported to learn English, attend college and take part in lots of activities. Nader has a strong desire to help other people and has been volunteering for a food kitchen for months.


Below Nader tells us his story in his own words:

My name is Nader Bahr and I’m 17 years old. I’ve been living at YMCA DownsLink Group for one year and three months.

Life before YMCA

I left my country when I was 14. When I first came to the UK, I was feeling alone. I didn’t have anyone to look after me and I didn’t have any friends here, or anything. But when I came to YMCA, I made friends and started doing lots of activities and had a really good time.

Settling into YMCA

I want to look after new people at YMCA because when I arrived for the first time, I was alone, I didn’t have anyone to look after me. I made a friend who showed me everything. Then I was like, I want to give this back to other people. So now, often when someone new has arrived to live at YMCA, the team manager introduces me to them. Then I would take them out and show them all of the city, take them to the supermarket and things like that. If they don’t have food, I might invite them to have food with me and cook for them.

What I enjoy most about living at YMCA is making new friends. Some others here even speak my language. I get involved in group activities, I play basketball and I do volunteering. I’m currently studying at college. I have passed my ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) so now I’m doing GCSE English and Maths.

My advice to someone who is moving into YMCA is… don’t be afraid for anything. You come and meet new friends, they will all be your family. We can support each other.

Nader, Jessica (Inspire Coach) and Temesgen stood in the garden holding up their certificates for volunteeringI also like to cook food from back home. My favourite is to cook ‘gima’ which is potatoes, tomato, pepper garlic, coriander, salt and pepper, and cook it all together in a pot. I don’t just cook for me. If I cook it’s for sharing with other people. When I arrived here, I didn’t know how to cook. I would videocall my mum who is back home and she showed me how to cook this dish. We also had some lessons from Food Wise, who came here and taught us about food waste and cooking on a budget. We cooked curry, rice and other basics.


I have been volunteering for Meals for You for 5 months. It’s an organisation that make meals for vulnerable people in the community. They have a really big kitchen, and one day a week I would go there. My role was to help with the deliveries, I take the sheet and look what meals are for where and then take them to the drivers to deliver to the community.

I like helping people. I said to Jessica (Inspire Coach), can you help me with some volunteering in the community. It was that day, Jessica called them and then we walked up the road to meet them. (Usually, people only stay at Meals for You for 3 months but they didn’t want Nader to stop volunteering so he stayed for 5 months instead!)

I also did the DownsLink Challenge again this year which was good. It was better than last year but was very windy! Geordie (project worker) got us lost and we did 5 miles extra walking!! He said, “we don’t need a map, no problem, I know the way”, and then he got up and went in the wrong direction. There were seven or eight of us from our YMCA who did the challenge.

This summer, I took part in NCS as well. We did a lot of things, we had experience for a couple of days, working in a garden and painting a wall. We also did some low ropes course, archery and canoeing. I just want to help people and learn new things. Some others from YMCA started but only me and Temesgen stayed, and it was with all new people that we hadn’t met before. We made new friends and learnt new things.

Youth Council

I have been to all three meetings for the Youth Council. I like the Youth Council because there is good communication and it helps people. I like going because they need change and to support the needs of people and give advice. And then they can help people.

At the first meeting, we were a bit late coming in. Everyone was sat around and looked scared. I walked in first and went around the room, smiled at everyone and fist bumped everyone. Everyone relaxed. I have enjoyed meeting the other people from the Youth Council.

Nader stood next to Peter Kyle MP, both smiling wearing tshirts. They are stood in the houses of parliament in a grand room with golden walls.
Nader and MP Peter Kyle

We went to the Houses of Parliament recently which was really interesting. I also met a member of parliament, Peter Kyle. He was so nice and spent the day with us. He spoke to us all and asked us lots of questions. In the corridor, I saw Suella Braverman. I had a lot of questions for her, but we weren’t allowed to ask. Peter Kyle said to me, “I know, I know. I wish you could ask her your questions” … he understood. If I could have asked a question, I would have asked ‘why do you want to send people to Rwanda?’.

We then sat in the gallery and watched a debate with Suella Braverman. It was good because there were people who disagreed with her, people were not just saying yes.

After our recent Youth Council meeting, I was surprised that these other young people didn’t have a good life. They had difficulties finding work, substance issues, and lots of difficulties in their lives. They told us their stories and it was sad to hear. I was surprised at the difficulties that young people at YMCA have. Now I am here, at YMCA, I don’t feel like I have difficulties anymore, I only had them when I arrived.

The future

In the future I want to be a civil engineer and go to Surrey university. I found myself good at maths and physics, so I thought Civil Engineering would be good.

I have some friends who used to live at YMCA. They come back to visit us sometimes. It is nice to see them and to hear about what happens next when you leave YMCA. I like seeing them.


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