How did you hear about Kimiyaa?
Andrew (mentor): I learnt about Kimiyaa through a friend; they were talking about the work Kimiyaa was doing to support asylum seekers and refugees, and I found it fascinating. I quickly realised that I would love to fulfil a mentoring role in the program and I also began thinking of ways that I could partner Kimiyaa with my law firm so that we could build the pool of mentors for aspiring lawyers.
Mika (mentee): I learnt about Kimiyaa through the British Red Cross, when my caseworker told me that it would be a great experience, since she knew how passionate I am about becoming a lawyer. I found it extremely interesting and without doubt accepted this opportunity and kindly accepted her support with the application. After submitting the application, I was called for an interview. I was very excited and nervous since I didn't know what would happen next. Luckily for me, after my interview, Danna, one of Kimiyaa’s co-founders, told me that she had someone in her mind who matched my application criteria, and I would be introduced to my mentor very soon. When Kimiyaa notified me that they had already found a mentor for me, I was overjoyed.
How did your mentorship begin?
Andrew: My first encounter with Mika was on a Zoom call with her and Danna, one of the co-founders of Kimiyaa. We had an initial chat among the three of us to break the ice and discuss the goals and objectives of the programme. Danna then left the call so that Mika and I could get to know each other one-on-one. We clicked immediately, particularly thanks to our ability to communicate with one another in both English and Russian. I could tell straight away that Mika was a lovely and strong person who was prepared to work hard to achieve her goals of (I) passing her exams; (II) securing refugee status; and (III) gaining a place to study at a top UK university.
Mika: To my surprise and luck, I found out from our first conversation that Andrew can speak Russian as I do. Since I believe in signs and fateful meetings, I believed it was a good sign and that I met Andrew for a reason, which was eventually true. Andrew is a lovely and generous person, who patiently listens to me about my barriers and goals, which I am so grateful for.
Your mentorship was quite a success, what was your journey with Kimiyaa like?
Andrew: Mika and I met on a weekly basis to ensure that we were moving in the right direction for achieving each of the ambitious goals she had set for herself. I was so impressed by Mika’s dedication, juggling a number of different commitments at home (where Mika is a sole carer for her mother) whilst preparing for her exams and continuing to advance her UK refugee application. Mika did tremendously well, passing all of her exams and securing a place to study criminology at the University of Nottingham. A new challenge arose, however: given that Mika was not yet a refugee, she was not yet in a position to apply for a student loan. We therefore needed to find a way to secure funding for her studies through an Article 26 Scholarship for asylum seekers, only one of which is awarded each year by the University of Nottingham. Mika and I worked hard on the application together and we were successful; Mika was offered a full scholarship for her entire degree, coupled with £500 per year to contribute towards her travel costs from Birmingham. This was a huge feat and I was so proud of Mika! Having overcome an incredible amount of adversity in her life, including being forced from her home in Azerbaijan, she was now in a position to start building a future for herself in the UK through enhancing her education. I was pleased to have played a small part in creating that path for Mika.
Mika: I have been very pleased with the way that the mentoring scheme went and I feel that I benefited greatly. Andrew had really given time to me and helped me think through my workload and priorities. We would chat a bit about our lives generally and moan a little about the challenges of my asylum case, but he is very generous and mainly let me focus on my most pressing issue, which was applying to university. Andrew and I collaborated on the application, and Andrew looked at my personal statement several times and helped me improve it. Moreover, he and Kimiyaa sent a letter of support to the head of criminology at the University of Nottingham, and I was awarded a full scholarship for the duration of my degree, as well as £500 each year for travel. I am so grateful that Andrew and Kimiyaa have played a big part in creating this path for me.
Mika's first day at University of Nottingham, having received a full scholarship through mentoring with Kimiyaa
What did Kimiyaa give you beyond professional mentorship?
Andrew: Going beyond our more formal mentoring relationship, it was wonderful to see how Mika and I created a true friendship. So much so, that I often found that Mika was giving me life advice as well. She is such an impressive young lady with wisdom that far exceeds her years, and it has been a true privilege to have acted as her mentor. I very much look forward to remaining in contact with Mika. Although we no longer meet formally on a weekly basis, we still keep in regular contact on WhatsApp. I was so pleased to receive a photo from Mika recently after her first day at the University of Nottingham, and I am extremely excited to see her thrive there.
Mika: It was amazing to observe how Andrew and I developed a real connection outside of our official mentoring arrangement. Having Andrew as mentor while applying to university has been a fantastic resource for career crises, impartial advice, and general hand-holding. I’ve been able to honestly express my anxieties and problems without worrying. I am very thankful to Andrew for opening my eyes to new stages of opportunity and strength. I will forever be grateful for his guidance and kindness. I'm looking forward to keeping in touch with Andrew!
Would you recommend Kimiyaa to others? If so, why?
Andrew: I would strongly encourage professionals to sign up as mentors for Kimiyaa; it provides you with an opportunity to make a real positive impact on someone else’s life. It also allows you to learn a lot about yourself during the process and may even lead to you building a long-lasting and meaningful friendship.
Mika: I highly advise young people (especially asylum seekers and refugees) to get involved with Kimiyaa; it gives you the chance to have a genuine beneficial effect on your career and life.