Mariam is a former Boaz client who was invited to give a keynote speech at the annual NACCOM conference in 2018. Her words spoke powerfully to all of us in the room, and she kindly gave us permission to share her words here:
"This morning I will focus on how destitution can destroy or build a person. My experience of homelessness made me lose confidence in myself and people too. It seemed to me I did not belong anywhere and did not know where to go for help. I was certain that even if I knew where to go, I will be rejected as I thought in my mind that the organisation that gives me support [Home Office] is the same that makes me destitute. I became destitute after my claim was rejected and I moved from Middlesbrough to Manchester to visit a friend.
The Home Office should stop making people destitute because this destroys some people for life. The main effect of destitution is mental illness, which most people end up suffering from. They become vulnerable, are exploited, making wrong choices and the list goes on.
Some people lose their support after coming from detention and they become
homeless, others will lose their accommodation once their claim is rejected. Destitution disempowers and destroys a person such that one will not want to go out and socialise thus continue to live in isolation. Fear of being rejected and dis-believed is what will constantly be in a person’s mind. Self confidence is gone and one will be living a life of uncertainties.
I was homeless and a friend introduced me to WAST, and through WAST I was referred to Boaz who gave me a roof over my head. Forever I will be grateful to Boaz because of providing accommodation and support, I was able to do things which I wouldn’t imagine doing. I had a peace of mind. I got my confidence and self esteem back.
One day I decided to involve myself in activities like public speaking in schools about who an asylum seeker is.
I did not want to sit down and see time pass me by. I kept reminding myself that even though I may not be in control of whats going on the outside of me. I can definitely control my reactions to those situations.
And that's how I started raising awareness and campaign on challenges people seeking asylum face. Shelter is a basic necessity which without a person has no sense of purpose in life. By providing accommodation Boaz has changed many people’s life and even given them a platform from where they can contribute positively to the community using their skills and talents. This has given them a recognition value. I for one I have been empowered by how Boaz is helping destitute asylum seekers, and I wanted to do the same to women who have lost hope and are not able to take part in anything, I wanted to empower them.
I draw my strengths from campaigning and raising awareness, when I speak to different audiences, school children, practitioners, local communities , sharing my story, experiences and challenges. I am inspired by asylum seekers who have developed coping mechanisms on little or no income at all.
Going out to speak or share my experiences has made a huge difference in my life. The message I always tell the women asylum seekers is to be content with where they are today and not to put happiness aside just because they are waiting for the right moment to shine. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to enjoy the journey. Every minute we are living is a blessing that has to be experienced in the moment, though it is not always easy.
I would like to say to the organizations/people working with destitute people, thank you so much on behalf of people seeking asylum that you have brought a meaning to humanity by meeting our needs, though you cannot do or give everything but the much you provide continues to make a huge difference in a person's lives, it’s our prayer you continue doing the good work.
I will end with where I started DESTITUTION CAN DESTROY OR BUILD. In this case it has built me to be a more determined woman who will not stop at challenges but focus on hope and encouragement."