“I wanted to build a machine that would take me into a different world, a different life. That’s the good thing about acting – you can have a million lives.”

After arriving at Evolve, it didn’t take E. very long to start building the new life she had been thinking about. Something very different from what had come before.

“When I lived in the Middle East, I wasn’t allowed out. I was forced to cover my face and couldn’t leave the house without a man accompanying me. I would go to school and then back to the house. I wasn’t allowed to play, talk to people, do anything really. Maybe once a year I would go to the supermarket. Being a woman and a lesbian, life was incredibly dangerous.

I couldn’t watch much TV, so books made a big difference. People at home couldn’t read English, so I would order huge novels in English and get through them in days. They hated that. Once they even burned them all, but that didn’t stop me, I just started reading online.”

E. tried to leave the country several times, and knew that being caught again would be extremely dangerous, even fatal.

“I knew the risks, but I kept trying. My mental health was really bad near the end, I had basically lost my ability to feel and was numb to the danger. I was not willing to obey anymore and I had to leave. The final escape attempt was successful, and I managed to reach the UK where I then claimed asylum.”

E.’s asylum application was eventually accepted, and she was granted the right to remain. After that, she needed to move out of her temporary accommodation and into a new home. That’s when she came into contact with Evolve and moved into one of our services.

“The people here were so good that, to be honest, it felt a little strange at first. Even on days when I have struggled with my mental health there has been somebody to listen and help. I can speak to my support worker whenever I like, I can get food whenever I like. There are so many nice people here.”

Not one for sitting around, E. quickly started looking at what she could next, and how she could use her hard-won freedom to pursue new things.

“I was put in contact with Benita in the Work and Learning team. She met me and asked what I wanted to do. I was a bit afraid of the reaction I would get when I said acting, because who actually makes a living out of acting? But she was really supportive and quickly found some options for me to choose from, including a free acting course that I’m now enrolled on. I’m really enjoying it and feel like it has started bringing some of my old personality and passion back. In my life before, my imagination helped me a lot to maintain my sanity when I couldn’t be what or who I wanted. Here I can live that imagination out through acting. The course ends with a performance at a very prestigious theatre, and I’m really looking forward to it!

Benita also helped me to find part-time work to go along with the acting. It will be good to start earning some more money and getting experience that could help me get another job. I would like to be a waitress in order to pay for my own flat next.”

E. has achieved so much since arriving in the UK that it might even sound straight forward. But it certainly hasn’t been. Leaving her home to find a new, safe life in another country was a huge undertaking.

“It’s really difficult having no people here and no-one to lean on yet – it’s a real challenge for my mental health. When you run away and find yourself on your own, you realise you are responsible for yourself and need to take care of yourself. Mental health is so important, and I need to take care of it. I find it hard to talk to people and can get social anxiety, but having things to do makes a big difference. That includes the acting, but also things like exercising and having a regular routine that I control.

There are still things I need to work on, and past experiences that I need to process. I am also still concerned about my safety, but Evolve have done a lot to reassure me on that.”

Despite the huge challenges she has faced, E. is positive and energetic about what comes next. When we asked her what she imagines for her future, she had some pretty clear ideas.

“I want to try the acting for a year, and maybe dancing as well. I also want a more regular part-time job that will help me to earn the money I need for a flat. I like the idea of acting, but I would also love to study and become a therapist.

I used to have to cover my face and stay at home. Now I can do what I want. So, it’s either University or Hollywood for me!”

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