Resilience: the ability to bounce back and move towards your goals: an interview with Charly Ngouh

Charly at theTGIUK event on Migration Matters July 2019

This month, our theme has been mental health and emotions.  As aspect of positive mental health is resilience and this blog gives us a wonderful example of resilience in action.  There is lots to learn from it.  Enjoy.

1)Do you remember how you felt when you first came to the UK? Was it what you expected? What do you wish you had known?

I was very excited and hopeful for my own future. The UK was not the first Western country that I had visited. But my expectations were much higher because I was going to be staying for much longer than was the case in Germany and other places that I had gone to previously. My expectations were exceeded by the generosity and the hospitality of the British people. I wish I has read more about the harshness and unpredictability of the English weather. But I soon got used to it.

2) What did you find bewildering and what did you find comforting?

I found the consumption of alcohol among the youth bewildering.

It was very comforting and even liberating to live in a free speech society, a place where people knew they had rights and also knew those rights.

3) In your book, you recount many adventures including ending up both in Iraq and in military prison.  You seemed to have great fortitude about both episodes.  When you look back on them, can you remember how you felt at the time and what helped you get through them?

In my book – How I Won My War – I re-live those episodes with a mixture of sadness and pride. Sadness, because most of all of those experiences could have been avoided had I been better prepared from the outset. Pride, because I also recognise, now, that the challenges of life build us into the men/women that we eventually become in order to better serve those who need us and better yet, society itself.

4) You also bravely sold your book on the street. What helped sustain you when you were out there? What were your beliefs and feelings about marketing like that? What was it about Cameroon and the UK that gave you the idea to sell it in that manner?

Initially, I wrote my book for myself. But the story felt so good that I decided to share it with the world. It is a self-published book and the company I used was not prepared to help me promote it.  It became clear to me that it was my sole responsibility to get my story out there. So, on Friday June 17th, 2015, I took a box of my books to one of the main streets around Victoria Station and was encouraged by a homeless person to stand next to him and hold my sign up. About an hour later, no-one had stopped even to enquire. I almost gave up when that homeless guy came up to me and told me that I should smile and keep my chin up. During the ensuing 4 hours, I sold a total of 17 copies. I knew I was onto something then.

5) When you look back at your life in the UK, what are your feelings and why?

When I look at the years the I spent living in the UK, I feel like I have come short [ at times] of making the most of all the opportunities that British society offered. But despite the various challenges that I faced; which are clearly examined in my book, I honestly believe that those short-comings and personal difficulties have been compensated by my own personal growth.

6) You are now back in Cameroon, how does that feel? Do you feel more English or more Cameroonian?  What helped you settle back?

I was born in Cameroon and even though I left my country for almost two decades, it has never left me. I consider myself as a Cameroonian. I have returned home to make a difference and to create and eventually, to leave a legacy.

7) What advice do you have for anyone coming to the UK to start a new life and what advice do you have for anyone thinking of going home?

I think that whether one is leaving home or returning home requires a certain level of courage and self-belief. They are both challenging for different reasons and one can never be sufficiently prepared for either. As far as I am concerned, when I am faced with the option of taking a leap of faith, I asked myself two questions: 1) Charly, is what your are trying to do more difficult than planning a trip to the moon for the first time? 2) Charly, is that thing more difficult than digging a tunnel under the channel? . Every time, the answer to both questions is NO!. So I jump!

I highly recommend his book.

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