I am Yacouba Traore. I am from the Ivory Coast and I have lived in the UK for about six years. I arrived alone in England as a 16-year-old asylum seeker following the murder of my parents who were political activists in my country. I was alone, unable to communicate in English, nowhere to live, no money, no job, no friends, and no family. I was isolated and frightened. My life could not have been more different to the one I had left behind.
When I first moved into care I was 16 years old. I lived with my foster carer for about five years. When I met my foster carer for the first time, I was a little bit worried and shy and conversation was almost impossible. Familiarising myself with British culture, traditions and obviously the weather was a little challenging too. My foster family supported me with this though and helped me to fit in and they also supported me emotionally, introducing me to their friends and neighbours. They were always there for me when I was finding things difficult. They went above and beyond their remit to give me the emotional stability and support I so badly needed.
Through their support and encouragement, I have progressed from being unable to speak English to study BTEC Extended Diploma in IT at Stockton Riverside College. I achieved the highest possible grades on the course and I picked up a triple distinction star. I am really proud of what I have achieved so far. I am currently in my second year at Teesside University to read Information Technology (BSc) and I hope to go on to complete a Master’s in IT.
My proudest moments in life have been achieving well in English, school, college and university. Additionally, I have won different awards including Young Person of the Year from Stockton Borough Council, Student of the Year from Stockton Riverside College and Resilience Awards from Teesside University, Young Community Award by Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland 2015 and a Fostering Achievement for Education Award 2016.
New skills new start
The Fostering Network has supported me to be young ambassador on a programme called Inspiring Voices. Inspiring Voices is a project that was designed for care leavers in England. It supported the voices of young people with the aim of encouraging a larger variety of young people with care experience, and their carers, to participate in, and outline the design and delivery of, the services that impact on their lives.
I have learned all sorts of new skills such as how to manage behaviour, write an agenda, chair meetings, and take minutes. I also learned how to make connections with new people from different areas by visiting other Children in Care Councils and by helping to organise events. In addition, Inspiring Voices has given me a lot more confidence and leadership abilities. Being part of the project has also helped me develop my interview skills and job prospects as it is very valuable experience on my CV.
My life has been turned around by the love and support of my foster family and friends. I would like to thank them all. Everyone from friends and family to social services; my children’s rights and participation officer, my grandmother Mary, my interpreter, Justice First, Red Cross, David Gray Solicitors, Safe In Tees Valley, The Fostering Network, Stockton Riverside College and Teesside University.
My advice for young people in care is to do your best in everything you do; believe in yourself and what you do; have a good attitude to push yourself and always try to be better person.