Zhala, a Kurdish mother of three, came to London with her children to be reunited with her husband after 9 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 she became depressed and later 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 program. 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 and 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 have 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 and I asked for help before it was too late.
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, on realising the situation, put her in touch with MEWSo and we offered Suna a befriender. Inspite 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. Suna still attends dance therapy and now helps out at our events, preparing her delicious Mediterranean food.
When the doctor told me about my illness I felt I collapsed. I thought nobody could understand me or what I was suffering and that I would never cope. But being with a befriender and visiting her 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.
Dalia moved to London at the age of 15 from Iran knowing very little English and feeling lost in the big city. Her parents brought her to MEWSo as they were concerned that she was unable to make friends at school and was feeling very lonely. We provided Dalia with a befriender who worked with her to improve her English and build her confidence. Together, Dalia and her befriender explored London, visiting museums, parks and libraries. Dalia found that spending time with her befriender and going on outings grew her confidence and conversation came more easily. She now feels that she knows London, and is braver about making friends at school. Her English is fast improving and she is taking swimming lessons.
My befriender was the first friend I made when I moved to England. She was patient and supportive and has helped me improve my English and feel more confident.
Mrs A – Anonymous
Mrs A had separated from her husband because he had been an addict and this had forced her to she bring up their children on her own. The husband joined a rehab programme and managed to get clean after a couple of years, joined a Christian group and became one of their devotees. Under pressure from her family and community, she reconciled with her husband and they started living together again. Once they started living together again he refused to share the household responsibilities and refused to contribute to the household costs. Mrs A, an independent woman for more than ten years, found it very difficult to cope with the new reunion.
When she came to see our counsellor, she was torn between shame and guilt. On the one hand she needed to gather enough courage to tell him the truth: that they have grown too far apart, had nothing left between them and it had been a mistake to agree to live together again. On the other hand she did not dare face her community, who were praising him for giving up the addiction and looked upon her as a selfish and cruel woman for leaving him in the first place. She received counselling to give her the confidence to recognise the importance of her own feelings. The next stage was to believe in herself once again to be able to live independently and shed away the fear of being lonely. Once she achieved the this, she also recognised that she did not fear the judgement of her family and community anymore. She then become confident enough to open a dialogue with her husband and explain her feelings and wishes.
I never thought I would be able to face my family, children and the community if I broke up again with him, but the counselling I received made me believe in myself again and be in charge of my life.
Mrs X – Anonymous
I started Befriending with Mrs X in October 2014. She was unable to leave her home often as she had a small child and had no one else to look after the child. She felt very isolated without the chance of finding new friends.
She also wanted to improve her English so that she could reach a level where she could apply to go to university to study Electronics in 3 years time when her child started school. She had a professional job in her home country but her qualifications were not sufficient for her to obtain employment here and there was no childcare available to her. Although she was married, her husband was unwell and so unable to help with childcare. We arranged to visit museums in London where we could take the child with us and other public places such as South Bank Centre.
She improved greatly following our weekly meetings and felt less lonely with a more positive outlook for life.
R – Anonymous
The aim of working with R was to improve her English. However I soon realised that working with a vulnerable client made the task of teaching a lot harder. In order to improve her English it was important to build her confidence. She was very reluctant to complete an English question without step-by-step encouragement. For example when spelling a word she needed confirmation that each letter was correct before continuing even though the majority of the time she was right. This makes writing a painfully slow process but the speed in which she writes has improved due to practice and increased confidence in her own abilities.
I found that I am not only relied upon to improve R’s English but also develop her Math’s skills, help fill out medical, travel and financial forms and improve her ICT and texting skills. R is an incredibly lonely woman who has had a difficult and distressing life and I have provided some much needed companionship for her. I would say that R has improved in her English language skills since I have been teaching her. However most importantly her confidence has definitely grown. This enables her to use the English she already knows (which is actually quite substantial although not necessarily evident at first). I hope that her experience with me will give her the assurance to venture further out into society and become less isolated from it.