Al-aman - Fatima
This is the story of Fatima, who moved to London more than five years ago from Morocco to join her new husband. Fatima spoke little English, had no financial stability and no knowledge of how British systems worked, making her extremely vulnerable and entirely dependent on her husband.
One night the police were called to her house following reports of a domestic incident. When the police arrived she was unable to explain what had happened due to her limited English.
Fatima ended up spending the night in a police cell after her husband told the police that she had attacked him.
Social services became involved because Fatima had a baby son. Little by little, Fatima’s story of a marriage dominated by a controlling and abusive partner came to light.
Al-aman, which means ‘safety’ in Arabic, is a Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP) which works with Arabic-speaking communities in London. London Councils provide some of the funding for this project. Al-aman contacted Fatima on a regular basis by phone or in person to provide a listening ear and on-going emotional and advocacy support. Project staff also remained in constant contact with her solicitor to advocate on Fatima’s behalf. After two long years, Fatima was finally granted British citizenship and a divorce.
Fatima says: “Al-aman encouraged me to be strong for me and my son” and refers to Al-aman as her “safety net”.
During her time with Al-aman, Fatima took English and IT lessons and enrolled on a child care course. Today, Fatima is referring women to the project's services, has paid employment and is volunteering in her local community. She is building a new life for her and her son.
Recently she called to say that she had remarried and to ask Al-aman to come to her workplace to talk about our services. In Fatima’s own words: “I started from zero but my achievement and success will not stop. I will be standing high with my son and for my son”.
Age UK London - Katy
Katy Donnelly, from Lewisham, is one of 24 volunteer social media champions recruited and trained by Fit 4 Purpose social media training to voluntary and community organisations working with older people. Fit 4 Purpose is funded by London Councils
Katy, as well as being interested in local issues, is also very interested in social media. Fit 4 Purpose identified Katy as having the skills to help a local organisation improve their communications and outreach by using online tools.
The organisation is called Lewisham Pensioners Forum. The Forum wanted to create a Facebook page and Twitter account to communicate with a younger generation for fundraising purposes and as a way of reaching the older relatives of those that use social media.
Katy met the Forum for a session on a social media and helped set them up Twitter and Facebook accounts, and showed them how to use free online software called MailChimp for newsletters and email.
Now, the Forum has a Twitter profile (@lpforum) that they’ve used to spread the word about Lewisham Peoples’ Day and events such as the NHS 65th anniversary. Previously, the forum used to ask the Mayors’ Office to tweet on their behalf whereas now they can tweet themselves and engage directly. Katy will be keeping in contact with the forum to assist as the Twitter page and the group's online presence increases
Refugee Council - Olow
The Refugee Council worked with Wandsworth-based the Somali Community Advancement Organisation (SCAO) to help them source funding. The charity, which helps Somalis in Wandsworth to integrate better into British society was finding it difficult to source funding because the management committee members didn’t understand their role and responsibilities as trustees and had little knowledge of how to write funding applications.
Olow Yassin one of the management committee members explains:
“I was elected by members of SCAO to be one of the Management Committee members, but I struggled to understand what the duties of the management committee were. We needed to raise funding for our organisation but because we were new we did not have any experience in filling application forms, nor did we know how to review our strategy to attract funders.
Following the training we received from the Refugee Council, I learnt a lot on the duties and responsibilities of each member of the management committee, on charity law, and I have now more confidence in governance; but we need more training on preparing policies, for example, for volunteers. I am glad I know how to identify the needs of our people and put a funding application together.”
SCAO have since been successful in their funding application.
London Youth Gateway - Craig and Eddie
The London Youth Gateway helps prevents young people aged 16-25 becoming homeless and is supported by London Councils. The project is a partnership between New Horizon Youth Centre, Alone in London, DePaul UK and Stonewall Housing, each established providers of services to young homeless people.
During outreach sessions at Feltham Young Offender Institute, New Horizon Youth Centre workers regularly visited two young offenders, Craig* and Eddie*, who were determined to avoid reoffending. However, due to family relationship breakdowns at their respective homes, each was at a high risk of homelessness.
After their release Craig and Eddie used the project to sort out their behavioural and communication problems which were causing the family tensions and were the underlying cause of their homelessness.
Their family relationships improved significantly, so both could remain in their family homes in west London instead of ending up on the street or in a hostel.
As ex-offenders Craig and Eddie felt downbeat and insecure about their job opportunities. Undeterred, the project encouraged them to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit, and together they created a concept for an event-organising business. Craig and Eddie developed a business plan, attended business skills training and started to build their portfolio and networks by organising events for and at New Horizon Youth Centre. Having gained the necessary knowledge, skills, confidence, and contacts, Craig and Eddie have now secured their first paid commissions.
* Not their real names
Ashiana - Rupa
Rupa* was referred to Ashiana’s emergency refuge by the Metropolitan Police Sapphire Unit. She had entered the UK initially on a student visa but could not return to her country of origin as she was at risk of a potential honour killing.
Rupa revealed she had been raped and the perpetrator had filmed her whilst carrying out these acts. The perpetrator threatened to tell her family that she was in a sexual relationship with him and made Rupa hand over her salary and money that she received from her father for university fees.
When Rupa finally involved the police the perpetrator informed her family in Bangladesh and in the UK. She was thrown out of her relative’s home in the UK and her father and brother threatened that if she returned to Bangladesh, she would potentially be killed due to the shame that she had brought on her family.
Since coming to Ashiana, Rupa has had counselling and psychotherapy at the refuge and has been helped to apply for asylum. Rupa explains:
“Since I moved to the refuge, I have my own freedom and I am out from all the violence which has affected me. My life has changed totally and I can feel some peace in my life. I have the opportunity to meet with new people and make new friends. After I came to the house, I felt safe. From my support worker I am getting all the support, practically, mentally and emotionally. I trust my support worker and I can share my feelings with her where I can find happiness. I am getting help when I need it. Sometimes, I feel like I am so happy to meet a person like her in my life. She supports me all the way to developing my skills and future career. I meet my key worker once a week. I get suggestions and advice about what to do. I do not hesitate like I used to.”
*Not her real name