“By his side, from the first small survival step to the creation of ambitious dreams”

by the Employability Service of the Athens Solidarity Center* 

Ujjal is a 20-year-old man from Bangladesh and asylum seeker in Greece. He arrived in the country as an unaccompanied minor when he was 17, he lived in a shelter for minors, he registered at High School and started learning the Greek language. Ujjal turned 18 at the same time when the world turned upside down due to the outburst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Consequently, he could no longer attend school and he needed to find a job.

During November 2020, Ujjal left his city and shelter, came to Athens and visited the Athens Solidarity Center and its Employability Service asking for support to find a job.  A young, shy but smart man, positive, and determined to build a life in Greece. His condition, however, was urgent, as he lived in severe poverty without any support network.

The days of quarantine rolled by together with Ujjal’s sessions with his employability counsellor. After few of their meetings, his counsellor suggested him agriculture as the main temporary option as all the other sectors were suspended that time and helped him apply for jobs. Ujjal, although unfamiliar with the job market in Greece, he seized the opportunity and worked for three months as agriculture worker in the suburbs of Athens. Even though this seems just a small step, it was the first of a continuous improvement of his livelihoods.

Ujjal returned to Athens with improved language skills, the curfew was lifted in Greece, and he found his next job. Today, he is working in a central Athenian restaurant, his job is appreciated by his employer and colleagues, he has registered again in High School, he has started attending cooking training seminars and he is dreaming of the future! His employability counsellor supported him from the first small survival step to the creation of ambitious dreams.

For refugees and asylum seekers, the Covid-19 curfews exacerbated the already extreme living conditions leading to desperation. Ujjal managed to overcome it by asking help, making one step at a time towards social integration, being brave, focusing in the future and not giving up. We couldn’t be prouder of him.

*From 1/8/2021 till 31/7/2022, the Athens Solidarity Center’s operation is supported through a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) in the framework of its global COVID-19 Relief Initiative.

**From 1/7/2021 till 30/6/2022, Kahane Foundation supports the Psychosocial service of the Athens Solidarity Center.

*** The Athens Solidarity Center is also supported by the Municipality of Athens.