Kamila Erkaboyeva – A winner’s story

Kamila Erkaboyeva was a guest speaker at our House of Lords award winner’s celebration held early this year. We are pleased to share her story.

“I guess my story started when I was 11 years old and I immigrated to UK with my mum from a country no one had ever heard of before. My dad was extensively preparing me for UK by making me watch all the Bridget Jones movies, only for me to find out that no one in fact speaks like they do in the movies. But my journey with HKF started when I was in college and my college counsellor, whose name was ironically – Bridget Jones, heard my story and advised me to apply for funding.

When I was 16/17 and on what was meant to be the first day of college, I woke up with agony only to find out I was internally bleeding for hours. I was instantly admitted to the hospital, where I later found out I had a pancreatic tumour growing inside of with the a size of a tennis ball. I have spent the next 6 months was between life and death in oncology focused hospital and despite my condition, I was very stubborn and continued my studies and still trying to attend my classes between hospital appointments. Just when I was out of hospital and ready to restart college once again exactly next year – I had to flee my home due to domestic violence and abuse.

My mum didn’t marry a nice man and I didn’t want to spend any more years filled with fear. Overnight, my mum and I packed 8 years of our lives in London in 2 suitcases and with £40 between us. We have spent 2 years living in one single room in a refuge shelter for specifically for women who are going through a similar situation. Despite this, I was incredibly stubborn once again, and continued attending classes, and acing my A level exams. 

I didn’t realise the amount of weight I had on my shoulders, and thankfully I spoke to the right person at the time, who directed me and pushed me to share my story for the better. I wanted to study architecture and that course is very expensive and to be able to have the extra weight off my shoulders has allowed me to enjoy university a little more than my college. 

Today, I’m doing nothing to do with my architecture degree. I did work in external facade and cladding investigation post Grenfell for 3 years, which was incredibly rewarding but I realised what I’m best at is raising awareness, sharing my story and connecting bridges. I work with different organisations promoting culture and tourism of my own country – Uzbekistan here in UK. I also recently became a delegate at the UN, where I want to use my voice to bring awareness and change to what I’ve been through. I actively speak publicly raising topics and bringing the importance of discussions. I think it’s vital to see the unforeseen and unfortunate things you’ve experienced as your strength, and create opportunities out of them. You’ll have a lot of people trying to bring you down and use these against you, impose more fear in you, but as soon as you see them as your strength and as opportunities – the world is your oyster and you’re the narrator of your own story.

You might’ve had a bad moment, not a bad life”.