Temesgen's story - YMCA DownsLink Group

Temesgen’s story

Temesgen smiling holding his medal at the end of the DownsLink Challenge

Meet Temesgen. At just 16, he had to leave his family in Ethiopia and start a new life in the UK. He was given a home with us and received support to learn English, take part in volunteering and join in with YMCA activities. Temesgen is passionate about helping other people and goes out of his way to make this happen.


Temesgen tells us his story in his own words:

My name is Temesgen and I’m 17 years old. I’m studying English and maths at college. I’ve lived at YMCA for about one year and five months. Living here changed my life.

The people are lovely and helpful. I’m very grateful to YMCA for helping me. YMCA to me is happiness. I enjoy talking to people here and I have some good friends.

Life before YMCA

I came to the UK when I was 16.

The UK was very different to my country. There was a big war in Ethiopia and there still is now. It’s not like the UK, it’s very hard to live there. There are very poor people and very rich people. When someone is killed, nothing happens. The government will not do anything.

My family are still back home in Ethiopia. The technology is very different there, my family does not have a phone so I cannot speak with them. I hope to see some of my family again soon, I think my brother is going to come to London.

Living at YMCA DownsLink Group

Temesgen and Nader holding certificates with their Inspire Coach Jessica smiling
[L-R] Nader, Inspire Coach Jessica and Temesgen
Before I came to England, I didn’t speak any English. At YMCA, I’m practicing my English a lot. I learn a lot new things, meet with new people and improve my English.

I learnt to cook when I came to YMCA. My favourite meal is lamb, onions, tomato, spices or pasta.

I made an Ethiopian dish the other day with chilli, onions and egg. It’s very hot. It burnt Jessica (Inspire Coach)’s mouth. In my country we would drink milk with it because of the spice but I forgot to offer Jessica any milk!

I like living in England and at YMCA. I play basketball with Nader each week and enjoy meeting new people at college.

I try to help with everything I can. I helped Jesscia when she was learning to teach English. We had some English lessons and she taught me lots of difficult words. She would say thank you to me for helping her, but I would say no, thank you.

I also help Elly on Wednesday when she comes to do chaplaincy meals. In my country if my mum is cooking, the young people should help. If she is cooking, we should clear and clean everything. At our chaplaincy meals we eat all together as a group, sometimes there would be about 20 of us eating together.

Every Sunday I go to church in London. I get a train and then a bus. It’s an Ethiopian orthodox church. It is nice to see other Ethiopian people. We don’t have that kind of church where I live here so I have to travel to London.  After church I go to eat with the other people and explore London.


Temesgen and another resident playing table football

I’m volunteering at Meals for You, cooking for homeless people. I help with the cooking, chopping and tidying. Jessica asked if I wanted to try volunteering and I said yes. It’s my dream to help people. When I was in Ethiopia, I would go to church with my mother and we would help blind and disabled people. We’d give them some food and a little money. She taught me that when I came to England, I must help people. It’s the culture in my country.

Before I started volunteering, I had to do a food hygiene certificate. It wasn’t available in my language so Jesssica helped me with the language. It took hours and hours. I speak Amharic but I had to do the exam in English.

I also helped to build the bike shelter in our garden. When they [volunteers from the local Hillsong church] came to build the bike shelter, I helped all day. I helped fix it and spoke with the people to improve my English. I was meant to be doing something else that day but I really wanted to help.

In my country, if someone comes to my home to do something, everyone would help for the whole day. So that is what I wanted to do here.

DownsLink Challenge

I have done the DownsLink Challenge walk twice now. This year was better because we were faster! At the end we were running. Chaplain Elly brought her grandson Hunter, we all loved him.

I did the DownsLink challenge to help other people at YMCA like me.

Youth Matters Awards and beyond!

The young finalists at the Youth Matters Awards in 2023. Temesgen is sat on the right, holding his certificate with his other fist in the air.
Youth Matters Awards 2023 finalists

I was really excited about being a finalist for the Youth Matters Awards. I do a lot of volunteering and when new people come to YMCA, I talk with them and help them when I can.

I had a good night at the awards. It was very interesting and exciting to be there. From now I’m going to be doing more volunteering, helping elderly people. I’m trying to help myself for the future and am doing my GCSE English and maths as well, after that I’ll get a job and it will change my life!

I want to be mechanic in the future. When I left my country, my father was working in a little company doing maintenance and mechanical work. I saw him doing that and decided that I want to do that here.

I also want to keep helping people. That’s my dream.

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