Testimonies from two clients who came to MEWSo with welfare and social needs
Zhala, a Kurdish mother of three, came to London with her children in order to be reunited with her husband after nine years apart. Soon after she arrived, he found a job in his home country. Leaving Zhala behind in the UK with the children, he moved back home promising Zhala she could return too, at a later date. Vulnerable and alone in an unfamiliar city, Zhala rapidly lost her confidence and became depressed and suicidal. She lost the ability to look after her children and required the help of social services.
Zhala’s doctor referred her to MEWSo and our befriending programme. We assigned her a Kurdish befriender to help her get back on her feet. From advising her on housing and schools to offering interpretation services, the befriender made sure Zhala had the support she needed to rebuild her life.
Gradually, Zhala felt her confidence return and with it, some of her former happiness. Through her befriender, she met new friends. After six months she felt like a different person and was able to give up her medication. She also began to look for new activities to be involved in, keen to help others as she had been helped. She ran a beauty session for the other women which was a great success. Since then, she has become a volunteer for MEWSo and is involved with organising social events.
"I was in a terrible stage of my life. I thought I had lost not just my mind but also my children. I thought that nobody could understand or help me. But I was wrong. I have my children and control of my life. I think that now when a problem arises I will know how to tackle it. I now have a network of friends and the good people from MEWSo. I asked for help before it was too late."
Clients whose experience with domestic violence led them to seek MEWSo's help
Originally from Afghanistan, Afsana had an arranged marriage at a young age with an Afghani man who lived in the UK. After their marriage she left her home for the first time and moved countries to live with him. She spoke no English and knew no one.
Her husband immediately took the money her family had given her as a dowry and went out drinking with his friends. When she confronted him, he beat her. It became clear that her husband was an extremely aggressive alcoholic who was violent when drunk.
Despite giving birth to their son, Afsana suffered many years of abuse and was hospitalised several times. Eventually, she found the courage to speak out and divorce him. Her and her son moved to secure housing but her ex found them, violently harassed them & forced Afsana to relocate twice more. It was through their tight-knit community that her ex was able to get hold of her phone number and continue sending threatening texts and voicemail messages.
She suffered extreme stress and anxiety, was vulnerable, isolated & afraid her ex would find her again. She couldn’t sleep, would stay home with her son for days on end for fear of bumping into her ex and she had no social network to speak of.
Social services referred to MEWSo’s counselling service for emotional support and she was encouraged to join our social club for mothers and children. There, she made friends, built connections and slowly became more confident.
Soon she needed our help again when she received a letter from the family court requesting her ex be granted access to their son. Our Farsi-speaking advisor wrote a letter to the court on her behalf explaining Afsana’s history of being abused. She also prepared her on what to say in court.
Naturally, Afsana’s biggest concern was that she might have to wait outside the court and leave the building potentially at the same times as her ex. So our advisor travelled with her, acted as her interpreter and gave her the emotional support she needed. At court, she insisted Afsana be given a private room in which to wait and that the court keep her ex 10 minutes longer after the hearing so that she and Afsana could both leave the building safely. After a few months of deliberating the evidence, the court placed a non-molestation order against her ex.
The experience completely changed Afsana’s outlook. She now has an organisation she trusts and can truly rely on. Her anxiety and stress levels have come right down & she feels empowered and confident enough to confront her ex and not let him take their son away.
Karima is a British citizen who has dual nationality. She went back to her native country with her husband and three children, but after violent troubles erupted there she and her husband separated and she return to the UK for her and her children’s safety.
Luckily, she still had some family in the UK who agreed to put her and the children up for a short time, but Karima had no money, no place of her own and the children were out of school, so they approached MEWSo for help.
Karima explained her situation to our Arabic-speaking advisor, and about the unstable and dangerous situation back in her native country. She helped her apply for child-tax credit and income support, registered the children for school and referred one of the children, traumatised by their experience, to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS) in Islington. Karima’s health had also deteriorated so she helped her book a GP appointment where she was treated for severe anaemia.
Our advisor also helped her complete a housing application for the Council because living with their family member meant the accommodation was extremely over crowded and unsuitable for much longer. Eventually, our advisor was able to secure temporary accommodation for Karima and her children.
After she had moved and was more settled, the advisor helped her enrol in a Child Care course, to enable her to become more independent.
Since being back in the country, Karima has successfully completed Level 2 in Childcare, gained work experience volunteering with the school her children attend, and is now applying for jobs. All three children are thriving and have excelled academically after receiving extra tuition and support from their schools; and the child once traumatised by their experience, is no longer in need of therapy sessions as their mental health has improved significantly. Karima and her family, however, are still in temporary accommodation awaiting a decision from the Council about permanent housing.
As a teenage girl at school Sina realised she liked girls. Now, a little older, she knows she loves women but, she says, she’s not gay.
She feels like a man. She lives as a man. She refers to herself as a man. But HE does not want to have the operation to become a man.
Sina is still sorting through the complexities of his sexual identity, something made so much more confusing coming from the Middle East.
“I was born a female in Iran. I kept my sexual preferences to myself as much as I could. I studied at university and then began a Masters degree. But when my tutor discovered who I am she insisted I go to a psychologist for therapy if I wanted to continue with my studies,” he said.
However, in Iran, therapy is just the first step. If you are homosexual the government forces you to have transgender surgery. The operation is illegal in most of the Middle East but in Iran it is used to physically change people’s gender so that it appears that the country has no homosexuals. Sina would have had to physically become a man to continue to love women.
The entire situation was incredibly dangerous for him. “I couldn’t live openly loving women and I couldn’t go back to my family as a man after living 20 years as a girl,” he said.
After such an operation many people would lose their family, their job, be forced into prostitution to survive, be attacked or killed. Many would committed suicide. Instead Sina was lucky enough to escape. He fled to London.
Here, he lives and works as a man. He found a houseshare with four men from Asia and kept himself to himself for months. However, a day came when one of his housemates discovered his secret and tried to rape him. Sina managed to escape and called MEWSo for help.
Our LGBTQ+ advisor took him to the police station to report the crime, found him a hotel room until the Local Authority sorted out emergency accommodation, and a few days later the police went with him to the house to pick up his belongings.
“Most of my housemates are good men. We helped each other out when we could and they were good to me,” he said. “But now, they look at me like I am a monster, strange. They don’t understand,” he added.
Since then, Sina has become more settled. He now has a new place to live, a new job and permission to remain in the UK. He is very thankful to MEWSo for the help he received and for not judging him.
When Suna was diagnosed with a terminal illness, she struggled with anxiety and suffered severe depression and panic attacks. Alone in London with no one to turn to for help, she confined herself to her house, rarely interacting with the outside world.
Luckily, Suna’s neighbour, realising the situation, put her in touch with MEWSo and we offered her a befriender. In spite of having no idea what a befriender was, Suna accepted the offer of help, and after several meetings found herself able to open up and talk about her illness and worries. She began to attend MEWSo’s dance therapy sessions, and there she met some other women and made friends. After a few months she was feeling much happier. She still attends dance therapy and now helps out at our events, preparing her delicious Mediterranean food.
"When the doctor told me about my illness my life collapsed. I thought nobody could understand me or what I was suffering and that I would never cope. But being with a befriender and having her visit me every week was like a gift. My fear lessened and my life has gradually been filled with the friendships of women. I have started to believe in myself and know that I can manage and feel good about my life. Now I know I am not alone."