Last week my friend Helen from Eritrea, had a party. There was food, dancing, games, and Helen was so happy – this felt especially good as just a year ago life looked very different for her.
About 14 months ago, I first went to visit Helen. I was a bit nervous as she was the first person I was visiting having recently joined Care4Calais.
She was heavily pregnant, had been moved from a London hotel to Reading at very short notice, and had very few belongings. She was worried that she didn’t have anything for the baby, and had little money.
Shortly after arriving in Reading, she was granted asylum, which was brilliant news, but it meant she had to move out of her accommodation very close to the birth of her baby. Being totally on her own, and apprehensive about giving birth far from home and family, she felt well out of her depth. I really felt for her.
We spent many evenings speaking together, where I reassured her she was in safe hands. I helped her register with a midwife, and sorted out paperwork for housing. She was offered a tiny, empty bedsit, which I promised we would make nice for her, and we did – with the help of donations from many generous Care4Calais volunteers and local charities, who provided furniture, a cooker, a fridge and even a washing machine.
We mobilised a team to collect and deliver all the items just in time – two days later she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl!
For the first months, I met her and the baby regularly for walks in the park or for a cuppa. I noticed a rapid change in Helen as she settled into her new home and could see a future for herself and her child.
Last week, I was honoured to be invited to her daughter’s first birthday party, where I was warmly welcomed by Helen’s friends. The happy group were cooking, making delicious injeras and various stews, dancing and playing with the children who were wearing the most beautiful party dresses. Everyone was so grateful to be safe in the UK, and just getting on with their lives.
Those who had asylum were either studying hard to learn various skills and gain qualifications, or were happy to have jobs. When her baby is older, Helen would like to go to college and gain a qualification in childcare. She has turned her life around and I am so proud of her.
I drove home with a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my heart. This is what Care4Calais is about!
Would you like to join the Care4Calais family of volunteers, and help those rebuilding their lives in our communities? Visit care4calais.org/get-involved/