Yusuf is a resilient teenager and the eldest son of a detainee whose case has been ongoing since 2006. His father is Yusuf’s only blood relative in the UK who is currently under bail conditions lives in a hostel away from the rest of his family. When Yusuf spoke to HHUGS, he recalled the initial arrest, many years ago:

First they barged the door in with no emotion, my brothers were asleep and I woke up; that’s all I can remember from the first night, that and the fact that my mother had a miscarriage. The next time they came I remember looking outside and seeing the police everywhere. In the front, back and in the garden, they were everywhere! I didn’t go to school after all that day for a while, well… what’s the point of going to school after something like that?

Yusuf has had to cope with the pressures of growing up, living with a step family and trying to embody the role of ‘man of the house’ without a consistent father figure to follow. While they remained in their area, Yusuf faced harassment from journalists and local people who knew what had happened.   On one occasion, they experienced an arson attack, leaving the family terrified and living in fear. This was no ordinary fire, carefully placed next to the boiler so that the entire house would explode. The police moved Yusuf’s family to a new area where he faced racist abuse from locals.   In another instance, someone threw a brick through their door. When they were moved again someone stuffed plastic through the door, as soon as it landed, it set fire to the home. It was as if there was no escape for the family – even being relocated every few years failed to protect them from such vicious attacks.

“It was especially difficult for my mother. Before my father was arrested he used to do everything, now she had to handle everything and I was only 9 years old. My father was not there to deal with all the racism we were facing, she knew why the fire started but didn’t tell me. I felt as the oldest I should have taken control, but I didn’t. She had to do everything and I just stayed in my room playing games, day and night… because playing a game is much easier than facing up to reality.”

While Yusuf remained in denial about the situation he was in, his younger brothers were falling apart before his eyes.

“When my younger brothers would ask where Dad is, my mum would tell them he’s travelling. My youngest brother just stopped talking and completely lost his confidence. The other, well, he completely denied that he had a father. They both started to sleep with their mum.”

Yusuf’s step mother suffers with depression and cannot work so the entire family had to rely on the little financial assistance she obtained through her asylum status. To add to this, Yusuf is facing his own immigration case.

“It affected her a lot. She had to cook, wash and clean the entire house. She had to teach us and make appointments but when she would go she barely understood anything. When my dad was here the household was balanced.”

Sadly, his step family was unable to meet the costs of supporting their loved one in prison or even provide the children with essentials, like school uniform. Coupled with the pain of separation from his father, it is not too difficult to imagine the weight bearing upon young Yusuf’s shoulders.

“When my father was in prison we didn’t talk much, for at least a year or two. We didn’t talk at all, all we knew was that he was in prison.”

Ramadan and Eid were one of the toughest times of the year for Yusuf and his family. Without a father, the month become a time to dread, as the emotional burden became too much to bear for Umm Yusuf. More than before, Yusuf would see her cry and fall apart despite her best attempts to be strong for him. He’d feel bad, guilty even, but he couldn’t bring himself to help her or take himself away from the seclusion he would find alone in his room.

“Without my father in Ramadan my mum had to do everything. I was running away from reality and she was doing everything. It made her depressed and I would see her cry randomly.”

When HHUGS heard of Yusuf’s situation we knew that he and his family needed a great deal of support, particularly emotionally and mentally, so HHUGS helped Yusuf with getting to know other Muslim men and young boys his age. This included giving him a male mentor to look out for him and act as a guide. All of this gave Yusuf much comfort while his father was in prison and he wanted to run away. Yusuf used to doubt the existence of God, but now he has discovered his passion and found a way of life.

“I went from paying games to attending lectures and meeting new people. I remember coming home from the first retreat, my mum told me to read the Quran so I gave it a go. I downloaded some Surahs (chapters of the Qur’an) and began to listen.  I don’t know why, but Suratul-Baqarah and Suratun-Nas made me cry, I didn’t know why but I just started to cry. So I started to listen to speakers, I remember clicking on something that said ‘Does Allah exist’ and I went from there.”

Moreover, through the emotional support provided by HHUGS, Yusuf has been able to hold things together at home and help out where possible. His independence has grown and he even provides care and support for his father. He is developing into a young man who plans to go to university to study Astro-Physics and is very keen to increase his Islamic knowledge by reading relevant books, which are paid for by HHUGS.

HHUGS stepped in financially in every way it could for Yusuf and his family. Starting with pursuing Yusuf’s thirst for Islamic knowledge, arrangements were made and paid for by HHUGS for Yusuf to attend weekend Islamic retreats and classes to help him learn about Islam and relieve him of the identity issues he was having. HHUGS have paid for the enrollment of Yusuf on a three year Islamic studies course and pay for his books every few months to feed his hunger for knowledge.

“I recognized that I had so much to learn. When I went on the courses and retreats, I started understanding things moreand I started concentrating on my prayers. I was able to fill in gaps, I could recognise where I went wrong and what I had to do to fix it. I started requesting more and more courses from my keyworker and HHUGS would always help. Now, I’ve sold my games and I have a room full of books. I started going to the library and borrowing books from there.”

Rather than just offering our services to Yusuf, HHUGS has been determined to provide holistic care for the whole family.

Once Yusuf’s father was released we paid for his gym membership which kept him occupied and active. HHUGS also paid for his bicycle and then a monthly bus pass so that he could visit his family as often as he wished which made his journey easier and enabled him to visit his solicitor and do other daily tasks. His monthly telephone top up was also taken care of and a brand new fridge freezer and tumble dryer were provided for the family.

The financial support HHUGS provided Yusuf’s family with includes monthly food vouchers, bills, school expenses, telephone bills, transport, phone top-ups and Eid gifts to bring them back onto their feet.

Extra transport costs for Yusuf and his father were covered so that they could travel to another city in order to see their solicitor concerning their immigration case. HHUGS also assisted with the application process and the fees towards it.

Without HHUGS, Yusuf and his family would have struggled to be where they are today.

Throughout these years Yusuf has faced challenges which he is now overcoming with the mentoring that HHUGS provides, something that we believe all our youth at this critical age have the right to.

“They helped my mother with financially and they’re helping me spiritually. The keyworker would talk to me and take me on walks. She’d give me books and gifts. They helped me emotionally when I had problems with my mother. I have finally started to understand my mother now.”

Family life improved. Yusuf has started to get along with his step mother and brother. He is now becoming a responsible young man who looks after his family and sees to their needs.  

“People should support HHUGS because they changed me from having one personality to another.”