Fleeing from the Taliban in Afghanistan, Dr Nooralhaq Nasimi and his family arrived in the UK in November 1999 after travelling across the English Channel in a refrigerated lorry.
Eighteen years on and he is now the director of a charity which helps refugees living in London.
Upon arrival to the UK, Dr Nasimi and his family found a home in Lewisham, south east London, before setting up the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association which provides support, skills and advice to refugees.
In June this year the charity opened its first west London office, in Hounslow, in a bid to address the lack of support available.
Speaking to getwestlondon, Dr Nasimi recalled the trauma of leaving his home country with three children aged six months, five and eight.
"Living under the Taliban was impossible"
"It wasn't an easy journey, it was so difficult, so emotional leaving Afghanistan with small children," he said.
Adding: "Living under the Taliban was impossible and we decided to leave Afghanistan and find a safer place where we can live in a peaceful environment."
The family were in the container with a number of other people, he continued: "We were lucky because they started hitting the container where the UK border agency eventually listened to them, heard from us and opened the door, otherwise, if we were alone, we'd simply die."
Dr Nasimi and his family struggled to find support with learning English and accessing services. After being in the country for just over a year he decided to set up the charity in order to bridge this gap, and ensure other refugees would not experience the same challenges.
The charity provides a range of different services including English, maths and science lessons, trips and cultural events, as well as providing housing, immigration and employment advice.
Members of the Afghan and Asian communities are encouraged to get in touch with the charity or head to one of its bases in Deptford and Hounslow to seek free support.
Dr Nasimi said: "When we just came to the UK we didn't know where we could meet our own people, where we could get some support with filling in Housing applications or where we could register with a GP.
"Or how we could help our children to receive some additional support with their homework, with school subjects, or where we could just go and communicate and learn some basic English."
"This was the reason to set up a charity to support other people in a similar position that we were in at that time."
"One of the important things about running a charity is to empower a community"
He says his goal is to empower the local communities where he works.
He told getwestlondon: "One of the important things about running a charity is to empower a community, and you can't empower the community if you don't have the grass-root services available to the community."
Tara is one of many people benefiting from the English classes provided. She said: "I joined this class to learn more English, because it’s very important to find a good job and to meet new friends.
"I really like this class because the people are nice and very friendly.
"The teachers are very patient and nice."
Zahra, 12, said: "Before I didn’t really enjoy school because I found it hard to read and do maths.
"Here, I get a lot of help, I’ve improved my reading and maths, and I have the confidence to do my schoolwork on my own."
Services provided by the charity are available from Monday to Saturday during the day and into the evening, and are largely run by volunteers.
For more information and to see if you can benefit from the charity, click here.
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