Champion is passionate about planes and recently undertook an introductory course in Aviation Engineering, thanks to the No Interest Loan Scheme. It was an important stepping stone for him as he builds his career and life in Ireland.

Champion’s whole face lights up when he talks about airplanes and aviation. Ever since he was a little boy in Zimbabwe he has dreamt of working with planes. When he was in primary school he spent three months trying to build his own model helicopter out of wire. He was never quite able to get it to take off, but in hindsight he knows now where he went wrong!

That’s thanks to a course in Aviation Engineering which he recently completed with Atlantic Aviation and Limerick Institute of Technology. The ten-week introductory course has given him a taste for his chosen field, and it was every bit as exciting as he expected.

“I worked as a motor mechanic back home but I’m crazy about engineering and planes. I’m the kind of person if I just look at something I’ll be able to tell how it works or how to fix it. The course was an amazing experience. They gave us an assignment after every class, there was a lot of reading and research, but when you really love something you do not see it as work.”

Champion Sibanda has been in Ireland since May 2015, living in Knockalisheen Accommodation Centre outside Limerick for most of that time. He has no family here and says he sometimes finds it difficult to stay positive about this new phase of his life.

“You have to be strong. It’s not easy but I’m managing. I do volunteer work at a charity shop. The place I live is isolated from the community, so it is not easy to mingle. I think it can make people lazy: just stay at home, eat, sleep, eat, sleep, and that’s not good. It can feel like an open prison.”

Champion felt the aviation course would give him an opportunity to keep his mind active while studying a subject he was passionate about. He found out about Good Shepherd Ireland’s No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) through a notice at the centre, and quickly secured a loan to pay the course fees.

“My loan was approved, and the fees went straight through to the college. It was easy, just one form. Our agreement was that I’d pay €2 a week, and I have repaid the loan in full. There is no hassle or pressure. If you are struggling or need to miss a payment you can talk to them.”

Champion is awaiting a decision on protection status, having attended his interview almost a year ago. “I can’t really tell when I will hear,” he says. “At least with the help of Good Shepherd you get to do something to keep yourself busy, because otherwise you will crash.”

For Champion the NILS loan was a lifeline, as it gave him the opportunity to take a step towards his dream career: “When you’re coming from direct provision it is not easy to find courses or jobs. You start from zero. I would like to do the next course in Aviation Engineering, hopefully next year; it is definitely what I want to do,” he says.

“I hope Good Shepherd keep up the good work as it is really helpful. It is good that they are not giving you money for free and you get to pay it back so someone else can benefit. May the good Lord bless them!”

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