Harold Hill former refugee crowd funds money to study as barrister

Pamela Okende, is from Democratic Republic of the Congo, and came to the UK with her family to flee

Pamela Okende, is from Democratic Republic of the Congo, and came to the UK with her family to flee conflict. She wants to become a barrister and a model for younger children and single mothers in Harold Hill to pursue higher aims. - Credit: Archant

A mother of three, who came to the UK as a refugee child, began her barrister training course this week after she raised £1,451 by crowd funding to finance her studies.

Pamela Okende, 27, has always dreamed of a career in law and hopes to inspire young mums to achieve high aims and to make the bar a more diverse profession.

She said: “For someone with my background to go into a very traditional and elitist industry, I think I can really make an impact in the legal industry and that is what pushes me forward.

“In Harold Hill, I haven’t had people to look up to and to inspire me to aim higher and I want to be that person for people who are growing up,” she added.

The caseworker for the financial services ombudsman grew up in Harold Hill, after fleeing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with her family, and she still lives there with her husband and three children.

In 2012, she completed a law degree with first class honours while being pregnant with her second child.

Two years later, Mrs Okende was offered a place at City University’s Law School, but she had to defer her start after her scholarship application fell through.

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Mrs Okende could not afford to pay the £17,500 tuition fees of Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and was still short of £12,100 after having been awarded a £5,000 scholarship and paid the £400 course deposit.

In August, she decided to resort to crowd funding as “a last resort” after she was convinced by her husband to publish a pitch on the Hubbub crowd funding platform, which specialises in education.

Mrs Okende deplores the lack of funding available for postgraduate studies and she explained she could not add any financial burden to her young family.

“It has been such an eye opening journey because of all the lessons that I have learned.

“Putting myself out there was the most terrifying thing for me, but I got a lot of positive responses out of it.”

Mrs Okende decided to undertake the legal qualification course part-time, and to continue working and applying for scholarships to pay for the remaining tuition fees. She also hopes “to get as many awards as I can” in her course, which provide pots of money for students based on merit.