This month, former Refugee Council volunteer Eileen was named a Rare Rising Star at a prestigious ceremony in Parliament. Now in its sixth year, Rare Rising Stars showcases the incredible achievements of the best black students in the UK. This is Eileen’s story.
Eileen grew up in an abusive home in Kenya, having been left there by her mother who moved to the UK.
The abuse included forcing her to miss school, alongside her sister, and work from the age of 6.
When her mother arrived out of the blue to fetch her, aged 11, she thought her torment was over. However, a month after arriving in the UK, her mother disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again, leaving Eileen and her sister living – in cramped conditions – with a strange man in a strange country.
Despite all these setbacks and seemingly unaware that her life was atypical, Eileen excelled at school.
Her dream of becoming an aeronautical engineer was in danger of being crushed when she was refused a student loan due to her visa status, but her determination won through.
After volunteering with the Refugee Council for two years, and against all the odds, Eileen secured £10,000 of funding in only three months by writing to almost 100 charities and funds. She also secured a fully-funded scholarship from the Dean of Bristol University and acts as an ambassador trying to encourage girls to take up STEM subjects.
Despite all of her setbacks, Eileen is now seventh in a class of 104 after her first year on this highly competitive course and is applying for indefinite leave to remain.
Eileen said: “Being an engineer is not just about being in overalls covered in oil. I want to tell the real story and make girls realise that you don’t have to attend a posh school to study engineering.”