"I used to think I was a shy person but I’m not shy at all..."
Sema is a former Home Group customer at Tyneside Foyer and now an income assistant at our Newcastle office
I’m a Turkish Muslim woman and I moved to the UK when I was 10. I spoke no English so I really struggled when I started school. I was bullied because of the way I looked, my beliefs and the way I spoke.
I moved to secondary school with zero confidence and thought if I didn’t speak to anyone I would be safe. That was the only way I knew how to protect myself but it didn’t work – the bullies still targeted me because I had no friends.
The first day I walked into school wearing my Hijab in Year 9 people looked at me in a disgusted way and the verbal abuse turned to physical assaults; hitting me, throwing things at me and refusing to sit near me.
It was horrible but I didn’t do anything to stop them or tell my family; I was too scared.
I moved to Newcastle in Year 10 but the racism continued and I didn’t have any social life; I was spending all my time with my family because they were the only ones not judging me.
I started a study program at Home Group’s Tyneside Foyer; I still can’t believe what a totally different experience this was – the training team really helped and supported me. They encouraged me to start an apprenticeship which was the best move I’ve made in my life; I will never forget how Home Group has built my confidence up.
I used to think I was a shy person but I’m not shy at all; I was just scared to show my true self; something I don’t need to worry about now.
Home Group does touch people’s lives in a positive way; it’s not just a place to earn money; it’s my second family.