Umm Yusuf is a refugee and mother of three; her oldest son, Yusuf being her step son. When she entered the country many years ago, she didn’t know a word of English and relied upon her husband to take care of her and her children. But one night whilst her children were asleep, her world fell apart…

‘The memories are very painful. It was difficult, especially on that first night… I was in a very bad state at the time because I had just had a miscarriage and then the police came to my house and took my husband away instantly. I was so confused, I couldn’t speak a word of English and all I could do was comfort the children. Yusuf and the children were crying, so I tried to hold them and silence them, but I was in a terrible state myself. It was a very difficult situation for the children. I tried to control my nerves and emotions because as a mother, I had to gather all my strength to be with them and to not desert them. So I told them, ‘this is from Allah, a test and we must be patient’.

We stayed in the hotel from the morning till sunset that day. When we returned home, Yusuf wanted to go to school but all of the children in the area had heard the news. They would taunt him, saying:

“You were all over the news, they have your pictures, you have problems. You are bad people!”

I stayed in the house for two weeks, not opening the doors or windows out of fear of people and the press. Eventually, the police moved us to another house but it was just as bad. The people around us saw me as a Niqabi woman, with children and no husband and so they showed me no mercy. I used to always hear things from them, sometimes they would use swear words and sometimes they would call me words like “ninja”, hurling insults and mocking the hijab. The children were getting bullied at school. In Yusuf’s class for example, they would beat him and abuse him, knowing that he was defenceless without a father. It was a difficult time.  

I am in a strange land. I don’t have family, I don’t have friends, I’m a refugee and I don’t have any status in this country. When my husband was arrested, it was like a thunder bolt had struck me. But I had to control myself, my inner scars and pains, and silence them for my children. My priority was to protect them from what was happening; I had to try and help them forget the situation that they were living through. I would try not to cry in front of them, I would try not to be weak, I did not want to expose them to feelings of weakness…

I found myself trying desperately to fulfil the role of the father, but it was difficult. There were so many responsibilities, I had to take the children where they needed to go, I had to ensure the home was maintained and taken care of, all of the things that are responsibilities of the man I was now taking on. On top of that I was trying to reassure the children that everything was going to be okay. Children are very sensitive during such times, they want affection, compassion and someone to hug them. I tried to be that person for them, I tried to compensate by being a mother and father but it wasn’t enough. They always used to ask me: “Why was our Dad taken? Mama, why don’t we have a Dad?”

There was one more question they used to ask which I couldn’t answer; they would ask it on the way to school. I’d take them and they’d look around surprised at the way mothers were walking with their husbands to school. They would ask me: “Mama, why do they have fathers and go together, but we don’t have a Dad to take us?

Indeed, these were simple questions but they made my heart sink and feel overwhelmed with depression inside. My biggest concern at the time was my step son Yusuf. He was just nine years old and he had lost his mother less than a year before and now he was losing his father. He really needed his father because he was only just getting to know me and he had been with me for less than a year. He needed someone to speak to about all of his feelings. I tried to give him strength, courage and hope, but no matter how much I tried he still felt the pain.

Then I found HHUGS…

After a long year of suffering, I began to tell my husband about my sorrows, telling him that I had no one by me and that I didn’t know how to help the children adjust to the area we were in. He told me that I should contact HHUGS and they could maybe speak to me. I plucked up the courage to call and before we knew it, a sister had come to visit me. I told her about my situation and she helped me complete an application form for support.

They immediately started helping with the children, speaking to Yusuf and I and taking us away from the environment we were in. They would take us on group trips and retreats. These outings were a relief because they would take us away from the surroundings we were in.    

Yusuf used to stay in his room alone all day, but HHUGS, they paid attention to him, taking him on Islamic conferences and retreats. He began going to these classes and his religious understanding improved. His approach to things became different, he would know right from wrong and he became a positive healthy young man. He changed his attitude towards me from hostility to kindness and he began helping me look after our family. HHUGS paid for Yusuf to enrol on a three year Islamic programme. Every few months, they pay for his Islamic books and he reads them eagerly. They pay for his Qur’an classes, so he can learn to recite the Qur’an properly. I couldn’t have imagined that they would have such an impact on him. I believe I would never have been able to help Yusuf in the same way. Indeed, HHUGS showed me no shortcomings.

HHUGS helped my financial situation by sending me food vouchers and paying for my bills. They could see I was stressed so they enquired about whether I had a lawyer and I informed them that despite my efforts I was failing to find anyone who would take the case on. I gave them permission to help me and yes, they found me a solicitor and continued to help us with one. When Yusuf needed his birth certificate to be translated for doctors and for college, HHUGS paid for the translation. All of my children needed to apply for citizenship, Yusuf and the younger two. I asked HHUGS for help and they paid for the applications to be submitted.

After my husband was released, they continued to help us. They would send me food vouchers, they paid for mine and my husband TV licence, his phone top-up and his travel card. They paid for my husband’s gym membership which gave him a place to take his mind off the situation he was in. As an asylum seeker, it was impossible to buy new things because we were just scraping by as it was, but when we needed the help, HHUGS paid for our fridge freezer and tumble dryer. They paid for my husband’s bicycle so that transport was made easier for him. In Winter, they send us vouchers for clothing and sent us a duvets to keep us warm. Allah knows the difference that HHUGS made to my life.

HHUGS is an independent and neutral charity who helps families in need. Whether it’s a mother who is feels oppressed in a foreign land, or an orphan child who has lost their father. Yes, it was Allah’s decree that HHUGS helped us but there are people out there who may not know this charity. HHUGS were there to understand my pain, my wounds and the suffering I was going through. In this land, we need to complete each other, in that sense, we don’t have anyone else but each other.

I can only hope that people hear our voice, that they know HHUGS, aid them and support them with wealth and awareness!