Benoit loves to actively contribute to his local community, but as an asylum seeker has not been allowed to work. Thanks to the No Interest Loan Scheme, he recently returned to study and is preparing to enter employment in Ireland.

Benoit loves to actively contribute to his local community, but as an asylum seeker has not been allowed to work. Thanks to the No Interest Loan Scheme, he recently returned to study and is preparing to enter employment in Ireland.

Benoit Mboudou is a busy young man. Currently residing in Limerick, he spends his days volunteering at a homeless service, fixing bicycles at a community centre, supervising homework for schoolchildren and helping Leaving Cert students prepare for French oral exams.

He is clearly contributing a lot to his community but there is much more Benoit would like to do, and top of the list is getting a job. Having arrived in Ireland from Cameroon almost six years as an asylum seeker, he is still waiting for protected status. Up until recently he was forbidden to work – though the law is now changing to allow applicants to access employment.

“Doing voluntary work is good for the mind, and it helps me to make friends,” he explains. “As an asylum seeker you are by yourself. Your family calls you from home asking you to send some money, but you don’t have a job or money. It’s very complicated, very frustrating. I deal with my frustration by trying to make a contribution.”

As someone who thrives on being active, Benoit was anxious to keep his mind busy and prepare for the jobs market. He found a suitable computer course at Pery Square Business College, but didn’t have an income to pay the €400 course fees. It was then that he heard about the Microfinance Programme operated by Good Shepherd Ireland, and applied for a loan under the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS).

“My first impression was that the course was expensive, but Kate [in GSI] took time to explain everything and made it easy. It is very simple to apply, and you only need to wait two or three weeks. You pay the money back but it is small payments, over a long period of time. It is very flexible,” he explains.

“NILS is wonderful. It is a great opportunity for asylum seekers who don’t have money for a course, or for people who don’t have a big income – there is no discrimination.”

Having completed the 40-hour course, which covered everything from Microsoft Word and Excel to preparing PowerPoint presentations, Benoit feels it will give him an advantage when it comes to finding employment: “You need computers for everything, it is essential. I feel the course is security for me, I’m in a better position now to get a job.”

In Cameroon Benoit ran his own business, but when he left his home country he lost everything. “I used to travel a lot. When you are an asylum seeker you have lost a lot of opportunities, everything has been taken away, you are not a businessman any more. Five years is too long. You lose spirit.”

As he awaits news on his application, Benoit is busy helping out wherever he can while making plans for his future. His goal is eventually to set up his own business here in Ireland.

“I would like to do a business management course, and in the future I would like to create my own enterprise here. A lot of people here like to eat organic products –go to Africa, it’s all natural! I would like to run a business supplying only natural products.

“The new law giving authorisation to asylum seekers to work will make a difference. But it is good to do training first; if you don’t have training here, how can you look for a job?”

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