Voices from Lockdown 2

Mama K is an asylum seeker. She is a victim of trafficking, she was smuggled to this country when she was a child.  Now she has claimed asylum, and is housed by the Home Office.

Although those placed in non-self contained accommodation by the local council under Section 17 or housing duty are being rehoused to self-contained. There is no word from the home office about those housed by the home office as yet.

Despite this extreme trauma, Mama K is a wonderful mum to her little boy. With him she is all warmth and cuddles – she kept us at arms length for the longest time. By turns fearsome and friendly.

She is absolutely passionate about. standing up for what is right, and fights for herself and all our mums. She simply detests injustice.

It took us while to get used to her sense of humour – so very dry. But now we have she literally keeps us in stitches. She takes every opportunity to learn, to take part in all our workshops, to give voice to other less confident mums.

Her son is one tomorrow, he is so smiley happy, busy cruising around furniture.  He is days from taking his first steps. He shouts and babbles so many pre-word noises now – during one workshop he gleefully shouted on one note for about sixty seconds – stopping the speaker in her tracks!

This is Mama Ks message to all of us from isolation (or as near to it as she can achieve).

It is a shame that it is weeks into this pandemic and we still have not heard anytime from our local housing officers. Not one form of contact – even if it is just a telephone call to check up and reassure us.

No information has been passed to me at all so far.

The people that live in the other units in our shared accommodation are still bringing friends to the house they are coming and going, some of them are are even staying the night.

One of my co-tenants has a friend that has been here with her since the night of lockdown.

We have no communal living area, and there is no TV provided in the house. Now that we are not allowed outside –  we have been told to stay at home –  I have been stuck in my tiny rooms with my child.

They have nowhere to play at all. There is no floor space around the bed in my room at all.

Anxiety and depression are beginning to kick in as we have no information. Nobody is contacting us, and we don’t even know how long this is situation is going to go on for.

Voices from the crisis

Let us live, let us help!

Our beautiful Mama M is an incredible person, with sparkly trainers, an easy bright smile and the best behaved children you could ever meet.  
She is a natural leader. She is a touchstone for many of our mums who go to her not only to help with translations but for emotional and practical support, at the time of the crisis we were, together, devising a language course that would culminate in a guidebook to services with vocabulary for newly arrived migrant mums ….
Here is her take on the crisis and what it means to her, a single mother in the asylum system.
Please read,
Please share,
Please ask the politicians and public policy makers to do something.

I am an asylum seeker 

I arrived in the UK in October 2018, I was pregnant and had two children with me.  I was fleeing a situation so catastrophic that I do not wish to remember that time. I want to move forward. I applied for asylum as soon as I arrived.

Since them I have completed my asylum interviews but, unfortunately, I haven’t heard back from the home office. I am in limbo. I live in one room in shared accommodation with my 3 children.

Any parent can imagine the difficulty living, learning, sleeping in these conditions. This situation it’s really affecting our mental health and wellbeing.

My Doctor has already given me a letter to send to the home office through my solicitor saying that my living condition is causing me “undue distress and anxiety”.

I am suffering from sleep deprivation. My child’s school support practitioner has also testified how important it is that the children have some stability for their learning and wellbeing.

So things were a struggle before the Covid19 crisis.  I was surviving, barely, but surviving.

But now I am really scared

I am not able to self-isolate in shared accommodation with shared kitchen and toilet. It doesn’t work at all.

What will happen to my kids if I get sick?

I have not heard anything from our building manager or from the Home Office about the crisis.

My anxiety and stress is through the roof with this additional worry about my family’s health.

We simply need a self-contained place to keep healthy.

I am also concerned that our food supplies will run out.

Because we receive our NASS support payment of £37 per person at the beginning of every week, we are unable to buy, store or stockpile food.

Luckily, we are supported by a charity called The Magpie Project who have been providing weekly food bags and nappies.

But they also, most importantly, support us emotionally by connecting us with other mums through a fantastic WhatsApp group. We can join a positive place to share ideas, ask for help or talk to other Magpie mums.  *NO posting videos or stuff about the virus from unknown sources! *

We – as mums – are trying to survive and keep our children safe

But if the country gave us the support we need – we could do more. We could actually also volunteer to help this country and people in need by giving the skills we have.  In our Magpie group there are trained doctors, emergency response workers,  educators, and more.

All of us are forced to stay at home, destitute and worried for our families’ health, when we could be a massive benefit to this country.

If this crisis proves anything it is that we are all connected, my children are your children and vice versa.

I would beg you to

  1. Move us in to self-contained accommodation,
  2. Lift our NRPF and No Work condition.
  3. Let us live, let us help!

D’s extraordinary journey

When D came to us in June 2017 she and her four children were living on a friend’s sofa.

She had no recourse to public funds and was living on £37 a week – for herself and four children, one of whom has a chronic health condition.

Practical help to start

We supported her by applying for emergency funds through South West Ham Children’s Fund, supplying nappies, toiletries, wipes, food, clothes, and referred her to a food bank.

Empowering introductions to services

Through local councillor Dianne Walls D was able to challenge the level of support she was receiving.

She worked with Shelter and the London Black Women’s Project on her case – while her two youngest children – adorable and characterful boys – played happily with and other children volunteers.

With their help, D was able to make a plea to social services that she needed support and was rehomed into temporary accommodation in November 2017.

Learning, taking part, contributing

D took part in every workshop going:
Financial Capability (she knew more about avoiding debt, being frugal, and which bills to prioritise than the professionals.)
Child weaning, potty training, singing, dancing.

 

D was amazed by our vegan soup and loved it – taking home extra to cook whenever she could. She surprised herself because as she said “I only ever liked meat before!”.

OK she did love Farah from Shelter’s  tandoori chicken at the christmas party too!

Leave to remain!

In February 2018 the news that we had all been waiting for: D was granted indefinite leave to remain in the country by the home office. After years of waiting patiently for the wheels of the system to turn, we were there! (Maybe a few people on the team cried with joy that day, not naming names of course!).

All that the family is entitled to

With the help of the family support worker at the local children’s centre that we put her in touch with she has applied for all benefits due to her.

Now she is actively seeking work through agencies at residential care homes – she will work at night while her children sleep so that she can still look after them in the day.

D and her four children have been rehoused in Manor Park.

She is now a founder member of our steering committee, and has introduced volunteers and other families to the project.

She is a beacon of hope for the mums who are still in difficult situations.

Thank you!

For her endurance, patience, and strength her easy laugh and massive grin- even at the darkest of times – we admire here so much.

This is our love letter to you D. Keep on being you – we are in awe!

To help women like D and her children. Please give what you can. We are not funded by local authorities.

To help families such as Ds please donate to our crowdfunding appeal.

Or get in touch to ask us about regular giving.