The Missing Jigsaw piece
You know Father’s Day is near, when ‘You are the world’s greatest Dad’ merchandise fills shelves. For many, it is a day which celebrates strong bonds, and dad jokes, but for others, it is a difficult time; a reminder of loss, separation or a difficult relationship.
A father’s role within a child’s life presents a positive male role model, and acts as a pillar for emotional, and behavioural development. A fatherly presence can also provide a sense of security and stability for the child. The absence of a father can have an impact on a child’s behavioural and emotional development. Potential consequences of an absent father could be:
- Poor academic performance
- Behavioural issues
- Difficulty building relationships.
- Youth crime and gang violence
- Mental health
- Substance abuse
- Exploitation and abuse
3 million children live in a lone parent household in the UK (Office for National Statistics 2021). Children within HHUGS families are often separated from their fathers. Taken in the middle of the night, with little to no explanation, their worlds are turned upside down overnight. At a time, when a child’s greatest worry should be choosing their favourite colour, they are exposed to traumatic events, which remained ingrained in their minds.
Little broken hearts
Inayah’s father was arrested she was just four years old. She lost her childhood in an instant, and spent the next 15 years of her life, dealing with the rollercoaster of raids and releases from prison.
“I remember lying awake, in bed, as a four-year-old, staring at the front door. My baby sister was crying in our parent’s bedroom, and I heard a loud knock. A bang and shouting. The front door was kicked down, and my dad was kidnapped.”
The heartbreaking reality is Inayah is just one of many who had their father stripped away from them at a tender age. Safa’s father was arrested she was four, and she hasn’t seen him in a decade. Her heart aches being separated from him for so long.
“I used to spend a lot of time with him when I was little. He used to love reading, so I would sit down and just watch him read, and he’d give me things to do. I cannot explain how painful it was after he was taken away. Being a daddy’s girl, it’s not something that you can get over in a couple of years. Up to this day, when I speak to my father over the phone…after the call, I still feel like I am missing something important in my life.”
Young Muslim men look towards their fathers for guidance and advice. Especially with how fast things are changing in the world, having a role model can have a huge impact. Without this, they can feel lost and confused, unsure of their identity and lacking a sense of belonging. Yasir shares his story of how he felt when his father was arrested.
“Everyone around us disappeared after my dad’s arrest, so I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I held a lot of stuff inside me, which later came out in other ways. In the end, I was forced to grow up too fast.”
Mothers on Father’s Day
Father’s Day is also a difficult day for single mothers. It serves as a reminder of the loss their children feel daily. They try to their best to fill the hole, but even if they try their hardest, it just isn’t the same.
“I found myself trying desperately to fulfil the role of the father, but it was difficult. 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?“
As she walked her children to school, burdened with being breadwinner overnight, struggling to make ends meet, her heart remained heavy. She couldn’t reassure them; she couldn’t tell them what they wanted to hear.
“Indeed, these were simple questions but they made my heart sink and feel overwhelmed with depression inside.”
Filling the void
We are unable to change the past. We cannot rewind back time, and erase the bad memories, traumatic events and heartbreak from the heart of the young. However, we can do our bit to reunite families, turn around the lives of these children, and alleviate the burden of single mothers.
HHUGS supports the physical and emotional well-being of these children. On top of the trauma they have endured, children of prisoners are often stigmatised and ostracised by peers at school, and the community at home. Bullied and lost, many succumb to mental-health problems and often even turn to truancy and delinquent behaviour.
HHUGS provides academic support and recreational activities, as well as needs-based psychotherapy and mentorship, can help HHUGS children tackle their inner turmoil and find comfort in the attention and affection they yearn for.
“Yusuf used to stay in his room alone all day, but HHUGS, they paid attention to him, taking him on Islamic conferences and retreats. […] 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. […] 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.”
HHUGS also reunites families by facilitating prison visits for families. Prison visits are the only way families can spend time with each other. Many families go weeks, months, and years on end, without seeing their loved ones due to the cost of visits and the distance. By facilitating prison visits, children can be reunited with their fathers which is both beneficial for the child, and for their father.
Ministry of Justice research from 2017 found that promoting visits between prisoners and family members led to an almost 40% reduction in reoffending.
On Father’s Day, whilst masses walk hand in hand with their loved ones, celebrating happy moments, children within HHUGS families are reminded yet again that they are different. The ache in their heart is heavy, they just want to be able to see their father again. You can help bring joy to their heart, by generously gifting them an opportunity to visit their fathers in prison for just £40.
You can also help them heal by providing them with academic support, counselling and recreational activities to support their emotional, and physical well-being. Because of you, they can have a future to look forward to. With Eid approaching, gift the joy of Eid for just £15.