A Nigerian man living in Derry has spoken of his excitement at being awarded an Asylum Seeker Scholarship by the North West Regional College.
Chukwuka ‘Frank’ Nwanonenyi is the first ever recipient of the NWRC Asylum Seeker Scholarship and has just begun studying on the Access Adult Learning Diploma in Health and Welfare at Strand Road campus.
Frank, who has lived in Derry for ten months, said he was thrilled to learn that his application had been successful. He also revealed how he was inspired to pursue a career in the health sector by sickle cell anaemia, an illness he has lived with all his life.
People with sickle cell disease produce unusually shaped red blood cells that can cause problems because they do not live as long as healthy blood cells and can block blood vessels. It is a serious and lifelong health condition although treatment can help manage many of the symptoms.
The 35-year-old said, “You could live to your 15, you could live to your 25, you just don’t know. I am very lucky in that I have gone beyond that and as a survivor I want to work with people who have the same or a similar condition.
“I would love to pursue a career in nursing or any other medical discipline and hopefully this scholarship will open the door to university for me.”
Frank Nwanonenyi left his native Nigeria in June of last year. He travelled to Dublin before making his way to Derry in January.
Almost immediately he was pointed in the direction of the North West Migrants Forum which helped him find his feet and set him on his journey to third level education.
“When I first went to the North West Regional College they told me I would have to be tested on my English proficiency. Being from an English speaking country, it wasn’t too difficult and I passed my level two Essential Skills.
“It has been a busy time since arriving here and I never thought for one minute I would be awarded a scholarship. Now I have and I am very excited to be starting college and pursuing my dream.”
The scholarship is the result of a healthy collaboration between the Migrants Forum and the College. Earlier this week the link-up landed the Forum the title of Charity Partner of the Year at the inaugural UK-wide ‘Good for Me, Good for FE’ awards.
Head of Client Services at North West Regional College, Gillian Moss, said she wanted to welcome Frank to the college and wished him every success for the academic year.
“We are delighted to announce NWRC’s first Asylum Seeker Scholarship which supports the studies of an Asylum seeker through NWMF with the right to study as part of their immigration status.
“We look forward to supporting Frank in our inclusive learning environment which supports learners from a range of backgrounds and experiences.”
Congratulating Mr Nwanonenyi on his scholarship, Director of the North West Migrants Forum, Lilian Seenoi Barr, said it was well deserved.
“Frank has been a valued member of the North West Migrants Forum since coming to Derry.
“We knew how passionate he was about studying and we were delighted to be able to help with his application.
“For him to be successful in securing a place on the course, it gives us a huge sense of pride and we look forward to seeing him progress and hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, become a healthcare professional.
“We would also like to thank NWRC for offering this opportunity to someone who came here seeking international protection. It sends out the message that Derry is a welcoming and inclusive city, willing to support those in need of help.”