The Arsenal Foundation

Freedom From Torture

Freedom From Torture is a medical foundation that helps rehabilitate victims of torture from around the world. The Arsenal Foundation funds football and classroom sessions run by Freedom From Torture and Arsenal in the Community and, here, 21-year-old Victor Macauley shares his story…

“I was born in Sierra Leone and raised by my mum, as my parents broke up before I was born. My mum was shot and killed in front of me during the civil war in 1999, when I was six.

“I spent two years on the front line as a rebel fighter, before eventually going back to live with my dad. But he was ill, and he passed away when I was 16.

“I came to the UK soon after that in June 2010 as part of a drama group to do a performance about peace and reconciliation. I have two younger brothers in Sierra Leone but I decided to try to stay in the UK to make a better life.

“It was hard at first, and I lived homeless for two years, begging for money with a bowl in front of me. It’s difficult when you leave your own country and arrive somewhere new, as I had no friends or family. But you have to adapt and you have to be a man.

“I came to Freedom From Torture just over a year ago and it has literally changed my life. I was referred by a solicitor and I had a lot of anger inside me because of what had happened to me in my life, but I saw therapists there who gave me strategies for coping with life, and I’m so much better now.

“My case is pending in court and I’m waiting to see if I get my papers to stay in the UK. But I’m studying accounting and I hope to go to university. Then there’s football – Freedom From Torture run sessions with Arsenal and the people I’ve met there are like family.

“We really respect each other. Lots of people have helped me get to where I am now and I am so grateful. I am also 110 per cent an Arsenal fan, and have been since I was eight or nine.

“It’s amazing to think that when I was in Sierra Leone I would watch all these legends playing the game, and then I had the opportunity to come to this country and visit Emirates Stadium – it was mind-blowing.

“Arsenal, like many football clubs in England, are doing so much for other people, doing things together”like a family, and it’s just fantastic.”