Rodrigo's Story

I arrived in the UK with no English. I only had my older brother to look after me. My country was a very corrupt, violent place. Me and my brothers were fleeing the army as he was a protester, which was against the law. When I arrived in the UK it was like an interrogation. They kept asking me the same questions over and over and over. They took me to court. I was scared and looking for help. We were fleeing imminent danger and kept getting told reasons why we should be sent back. 

Thankfully they realised I deserved to stay. But once they decided to not deport us, we were on our own. They stop helping you and kick you out of the temporary housing. We had to get money, because until that point we weren’t allowed to work.

We eventually moved to a new house, but it was in a really rough area. There, I made two different groups of pals. One of them were the ‘good people’, people who went to school, studied. And then there was the other group, the hustlers, you know? I was stuck in the middle. In the blink of an eye I could have been in the streets making shady money or in a good place studying. I preferred hanging out in the streets, out there I got paid. With the ‘good’ people? It didn’t help me, I needed money, I didn’t have any. I couldn’t see the point of all of that anyway, none of what those people were studying for seemed like it was possible for me, so why try? 

I didn’t know what I was capable of or even what options were available to me. I didn’t just have to learn the language when I came to the UK, but I also needed to figure out how to adapt and live in this new, foreign system. I knew I was being taught how to pass exams, but I never knew what exams would actually get me. Nobody taught me about ‘life’, about how to apply to college, what grades I would need, modern apprenticeships, or any paths that would have been useful to me. It felt like everything was just about grades, but I didn’t know how that fit into that. 

Eventually, I got to questioning myself and my decisions. People were going to jail, getting stabbed, and I was seeing more and more of the ugly side of the lifestyle I’d been forced to live to survive. As time progressed and I was getting older and further through highschool, I was asking myself, ‘Is that it?’… I wanted more. I knew I had to pull myself away from the choices I was making and the crowd I was hanging around with on the streets. But I didn’t know how to do that on my own. When I started trying at school, everything got easier, but then I had to go home. And that was still a tough place to be. I had no role models to look up to. So when I was home I ended up in the streets spending my EMA to buy drinks with friends, just to be part of something. 

Someone at school noticed this and started talking about a charity called MCR Pathways. I didn’t have any idea what they were talking about but I thought it would be better than nothing. I thought they were going to talk to me about maths or something, but when they matched me with a mentor it was so much more than that.

It was just about me.

My mentor would ask about my day,  how I was feeling, what I wanted to do, my ambitions. I hadn’t had that before. After only a couple weeks, it was the thing I most looked forward to. I would keep looking at my watch excited for when my mentor was going to arrive. 

I told him what I wanted my life to look like, and he told me everything I needed to get there.  The matching system of MCR made sure I was paired with someone who had experience in the career I wanted to join. Every single meeting made my life easier. It didn’t solve everything, but it was a start. I was still part of a gang even though I knew it wasn’t the right choice. The sense of friendship was too much to leave behind. But I got talking to my mentor about it and we tackled the problem together. My mentor encouraged me to join some clubs outside of school, like football. It was a really good idea. By the time I got home afterwards I was too tired to do anything but sleep. I was in the streets less and less, until I wasn’t there at all.

Most of my old friends are in jail right now. I wonder a lot these days if that might have been me. I couldn’t have made that change alone. I thought I would never make it. But I did because my mentor made me believe it was possible. He listened to me but the guidance he gave me was priceless. 

My mentor’s continued encouragement inspired me to believe I was capable of doing more, and it was true. I hadn’t ever had that kind of care in my life for a long time. My older brother wasn’t there for me at all. All he wanted was the credit of me doing well at school, but he had nothing to do with it. The only person who really cared about me was my mentor.

At the end of my 6th year, I got all my Highers. And that whole journey started because of simple pats on the back. “Good news”, “That’s great”, “Well done”… That simple encouragement made me achieve a thousand things. I wouldn’t have had so many experiences, interacted with so many other people, entered the school talent show, lived the life I wanted to live. It’s the reason I did my scholarship and passed it. It really raised my ambitions. 

Now, I’ve got a home, a full time job, and I’m a fully qualified electrical engineer. I got my citizenship too! Now I get the opportunity to pass on what I learned to my younger brother. He’s struggling with his job, he’s not full time yet and I’m just trying to help him. I can be there for my younger brother where my older brother wasn’t there for me. It’s a great feeling.

I look back and… If it wasnt for MCR f*ck knows where I would be. F*ck knows. But now in my household… in my house, we’re a happy family. I can provide for us… It feels good to be able to say that. I listened to my mentor and he listened to me. He took me from the bad path and showed me the power of hard, safe work. You have to be wise with what you choose. All the hard work I put in… I learned from all the Ls I had. That’s why I’d call them Ls, they aren’t losses, they’re lessons. It might not be tomorrow or next year that I get what I want but now I know about hard work… it will pay off. 

What’s next? I want to be a supervisor at my work. That’s what’s next. I’m working for it. Showing hard work and commitment. I’ve got my own side business that I do as well. I’ve been helping my other friends that are hairdressers and barbers and I rewire their spaces for them to help them out. I’m building my own thing. Something I thought I would never be able to do. But because of that extra motivation and extra effort from my mentor to be present for me, it made everything possible. I feel like I’m somebody. People care about me. 

I could’ve been stabbed by now. I could be dead. But because someone was there to listen to me I’m not. My mentor gave me a different point of view on things, and life has never been better.

Mentoring is a challenge, but my achievements are your reward. It’s worth it.

Could you mentor someone like me?

* If you’ve been affected by any of the content raised in the events that you’ve just read, then please visit NHS Mental Health Services to access a list of helpful resources.