Mentoring Stories

Ahmed, 20, Somalia

I arrived in Luxembourg in January 2016. Coming from Somalia, I had limited knowledge of the languages, culture and generally how things worked in Luxembourg. I was alone and didn’t know how to start making my own life here. I have lived in various refugee camps in Luxembourg and that is where I first met Stephane. He came to the Foyer on Christmas Day 2016 to drop off some winter coats and supplies and I started talking with him. He had been made aware of my story through a friend I met at another charitable organisation and I was fortunate to then be invited to his home to meet his wife and family. That is where everything started to change for me.

When I met with his family, we were chatting and I said I knew what I wanted to achieve in life, I just didn’t know how to do this here in Luxembourg. I hadn’t been able to finish my secondary schooling in Somalia due to certain challenges facing me there so felt my options were very limited. Aatika, Stephane’s wife, asked me what it was I really wanted to do, if there were no barriers stopping me. I explained I wanted to work in Electronic Communications but I didn’t have the qualifications to allow me to do this. Aatika immediately set out investigating exactly how I could do this and came to me with the options. That is something she always provides to me – a never ending list of options. She doesn’t force me down a certain path; she listens and lets me choose what is right for me and if nothing works, she finds another route! She never gives up, never gets tired of helping me and never says no. We discovered I needed to start a French language course to pass the entrance exams to get my Secondary Education certificate. I am now attending classes every day of the week in Macher Lycee in Grevenmacher. Then once I have the certificate I can start an internship in the career I really want to do. I can finally see my future right in front of me and it is a future that I want. With Aatika and Stephane’s help, I am so motivated to achieve this.

I am also able to practice my French with Stephane and his son. I do not feel comfortable living in a country where I cannot speak the local language so it is important to me that I learn them all and they really help me with that. I feel like I have a family here in Luxembourg. I can share everything with them. My happiness and my sadness. My hopes and my fears. And they always listen! They have so many contacts that they always use to help me and through them I am hoping to move in with a Luxembourgish family in 2 months’ time so I no longer have to stay in the camp. I am so excited about this.

I was alone when I came to Luxembourg and through this mentoring scheme, I am not alone anymore. I believe no-one should be alone forever. Refugees in Luxembourg face common challenges and they just need help to find their way. Most youth refugees are here without a family and I believe a mentoring scheme such as RYSE, will help remove the ‘them and us’ mentality and slowly we will not be looked at as ‘refugees’ anymore. It is name I never imagined associating myself with until a couple of years ago and a name I don’t want to have as part of my future. I hope society can become one.

I am in the right place now. I can plan for tomorrow, next week/year; my future and I cannot appreciate enough what Aatika and Stephane have done for me. They truly help from their heart.

– Ahmed


Aatika & Stéphane, Luxembourg

An easy smile, gentle manner and tremendous grit and ambition describe our mentee Ahmed.

When we first met with Ahmed, he came to us afraid that his options for a future were limited to manual labour and construction work as he had been on the run since he was 14 and unable to continue his education. On meeting him, we knew immediately that he was very smart and he told us he was determined to succeed but just didn’t know where to start. It was clear to us that Ahmed had great potential but that without the correct support and guidance here in Luxembourg, there was a chance it was going to go to waste. Stephane and I asked him to spend some time thinking about if he could do anything what it would be, without constraints or barriers. He said would like to work with electronics. So we set out together to create a path that would lead to this.

Initially we met with CASNA (education for young adults) and they set out various options and steps for Ahmed. We were advised he would need to sit an entrance exam for the Lycee Technique course in Electronics, which included Maths, English and French. We also called the LT to get the correct enrollment information so he was fully aware of what was ahead of him and could make a well informed decision. Ahmed needed to further advance his skills prior to sitting the entrance exam so we also explored alternative options for him to spend a year doing 9+ classes before entering the LT the following year and also helped him sign up to a French language course. It’s not an easy road and is something which will take both time and determination but Ahmed knows we will be with him every step of the way as he continues on a path to a brighter future. A future very different to what he ever imagined it could be. We are very proud of the person he is today.

That’s the great thing about mentoring at RYSE – you can have such a positive impact on someone’s life in such a short space of time, just by guiding them through a country and system you already know so much about through living here yourself. All they need is your knowledge on how to navigate life in Luxembourg and they can go such a long way.

For me personally, the most rewarding part about being a mentor with RYSE is knowing that not only am I improving someone’s life directly in the here and now, but that this will also have a knock on affect for future generations. It is giving hope back to people who have had it taken away through no fault of their own – encouraging and motivating young people to achieve great things as after all, they are our future!

– Aatika & Stéphane