Cornerstone has been running for 25 years working with homeless people in Manchester, however over the last year they have extended their help to refugees and asylum seekers.
Andres Mora, 29, Education Coordinator at Cornerstone, said when the project first began in September 2016, there were 17 individuals from Syria, Sudan and other nations attending. One year on, the number has grown to 100 students who are attending for Maths, English and IT lessons.
“We’re finding that we are being inundated with students and there’s not enough space for a good learning environment.
“Our plan is to extend the building to create a larger classroom, and beyond that, secure the funds needed to make sure that we can pay for examination costs for all of the individuals that are coming here, so they can go to university,” He claims.
— Caritas for Refugees (@CDS_RefRes) December 8, 2017
According to the Manchester Refugee Support Network, when a person is given refugee status, they have just 28 days to find accommodation. This is the stage in which many refugees become homeless.
Mora said: “Education is the first and foremost focus. It’s enabling people to resume their lives to pursue future careers that they might not have had the opportunity to do back home because of having to flee from war.
“Moving forward we will focus on keeping the centre open. It’s more than just a centre where people come for classes, it’s a home for a lot of individuals.”
Andres spoke about a student who attends Cornerstone, Mohammed, 21, who travelled for two months from Turkey to reach the UK.
“I met Mohammed in August last year and he was as enthusiastic then as he is now, but his English was limited. He said ‘hello,’ ‘teacher,’ a couple of words that are really basic. He was at pre-entry level. A year onward he’s at entry level three.
“To put that in perspective, typically a student will go up one level within a years’ time. He’s gone from pre-entry, to entry on, two and three, so about four levels within that year. I think that’s because he’s attending here and college.”
“I have been in the UK for two years. I was working in Turkey and a friend of mine said to me, ‘what do you think about going to Europe?’ He said we can go swimming from Turkey to Greece. I was so surprised, but I realised we have to do this to make our lives better because our life in Syria was so bad.
“When I crossed the sea I only had my jacket, clothes and backpack. I felt as though that day was the last day of my life. We started swimming from 8 at night till 4 in the morning. When I finished I couldn’t move my body, it felt like I was broken.
“I found a nice lady and she asked if I had swum from Turkey to here. When I told her yes, she couldn’t believe me. She was so kind, she gave me money and some clothes.
“After Greece, I went to Macedonia on foot. After that I went to Croatia, then Germany, then France, then Calais jungle. I was there for 40 days.
“It was winter and I had no house, just a sleeping bag. It was so cold, nobody helped us.
“My friend found a lorry and we both went inside. It took us to a ship. I felt like I had a new life.
“The ship came to Dover and policemen caught me. They were so kind. He gave me four hours to answer questions about why I came. He said I want to take you to Newcastle to go to a nurse house. I was there for five months. They have different accents, I couldn’t learn any English.
“When I got my Visa to stay in the UK they said to me you have to leave this house, you can go now to college and work and have a good life.
“I was sleeping in a garden around 10 days and someone found me and he brought me to Corner Stone.
“Everyone here is so kind. They helped me to go to college and find a job. Now I go to college every day and learn English here. I work at Corner Stone part-time.
“I’m really enjoying staying in the UK, I’m really happy.”