Written by a team member at Stripey Stork.
As part of my role at Stripey Stork, I work with the referral sources to discover stories about families we’re helping to support. Some of the stories can be extremely harrowing and some incredibly sad.
I heard about Zauna from one of the wonderful local Outreach Workers and her story quite caught me. She agreed to meet me to speak face to face, so that I could hear her story directly.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as she’s faced some enormous challenges, so would she be a defeated person, feeling really low? I wondered how I would feel if put in the same situation. In the UK she experienced domestic abuse to the extent she was unable to sleep for fear of violence. She ended up fleeing from her unsafe situation and sleeping overnight in an office block, having had to declare herself and her three children homeless in the process. Then being relocated to East Surrey with just a single bag of belongings, but safely away from her abuser, she has had many obstacles to overcome, not least needing to work hard to support her children emotionally, the eldest child initially being particularly affected by his experiences and struggling to adapt.
Zauna welcomes me into her home, eager to make sure I am comfortable, offering me a drink before we sit down and start to talk. She tells me everything that has happened since arriving in the UK and there are times when I feel close to tears listening to what she’s overcome.
“I’m not going to lie to you, there were some days when I struggled to get out of bed, things were so tough, and I was so low.”
Despite working full time, there was not enough at the end of the month to provide clothing on top of all the bills. That’s where we could help. Since the family arrived in East Surrey, Stripey Stork have regularly provided the children with good quality items of clothing and shoes via their support worker as well as age-appropriate toys, books and games.
“When we arrived we really had nothing. Stripey Stork gave me hope that things were not as bad as I thought and that people cared.
The quality of the clothing is amazing, and receiving the packs means I can concentrate on my children and my job, and don’t have to worry about how I am going to afford a coat and shoes for them as they grow. The children are always so excited when they see the clothing bags the deliveries arrive in; they can’t wait to look at what’s inside. My eldest child is becoming more aware of what we have compared to what his friends have, and the lovely clothes help him to fit in with his peers.
I am so grateful to have this support, it means so much to us.”
There were times when the benefits system has been difficult to navigate, and it has meant that Zauna is having to rent a modest flat privately for her and the children. One thing that comes across loud and clear is her strong work ethic and she’s put herself under pressure to demonstrate this to her children. She wants to set an example of striving for more in life. Having gone back to college since arriving in East Surrey, she’s graduated in Business Information Technology, finding a full time job in the sector. Her job means early starts and she shows me the notes she writes for her children, reminding them she loves them and encouraging them to try their best at school. She explains that she’s created a structure at home to support them in their school work, ensuring they have the best chance of achieving. One child is now excelling in football, in demand by a local team, and another is exceeding in English and Maths.
When I reflect on Zauna’s story and that of her children, I am struck by the strength and positivity she’s shown. Zauna didn’t want to have to ask for help from Stripey Stork but she realises it was needed at a difficult time in her life and truly appreciates the difference it has made.
I consider my own family situation, complete with the daily annoyances that we all have, along with our “first world problems’. Zauna wants to help other women who’ve suffered similar abuse to her and I am sure she will be able to do that in the long term, but actually, maybe there is a message in her story for us all.