“HHUGS is more than just financial help, HHUGS is emotional help, HHUGS is the family you need. HHUGS give you that love and support that the government and the police snatch from you. The very morals in society have decayed and the caring feeling that used to be here is long gone. That’s what HHUGS is.”
Part III: Finding the family in HHUGS that I lacked
My husband had informed me of HHUGS prior to his arrest, with the intention that I’d volunteer. We thought it would be good to do something for our local community.
I had forgotten that they existed but it was actually a HHUGS volunteer that had approached me at my daughter’s school. I was still hesitant and afraid, but she was very accommodating and friendly. She provided the sisterly support, reassuring me, “whenever you are ready to reach out and whenever you are ready, we will be here for you”. I wasn’t pushed to receive support and she made it clear it was at your pace and showed me the support they can offer.
It was gradually building that bond with her that allowed me to understand their services for beneficiaries, and to trust them. That was a big thing for me, because I was not able to trust anyone during that period. Over time I learnt to trust them and almost accepting HHUGS as family. That is what it felt like: I found a family I could belong to, that I was supported by.
I was apprehensive in the beginning because I didn’t know fully who HHUGS were as an organisation. When I was invited to attend a coffee morning in the local area, I realised how much reach they had within the local community- and came to know about other families that had been through similar things. It was safe space to be able to speak about how I felt without being judged. That was a big thing for me.
Within the local community, all you would hear are the comments, snide looks, and remarks when you are in public, “That is so and so’s wife”. In that environment that was not the case, I was able to express how I felt and what I had been through, with other sisters and families that experienced similar. I was also able to learn from their experiences. That was big thing to communicate with someone else that had been through the same, or possibly even worse than you. Similarly, you being able to offer insight to someone recently impacted, to reassure them you know what they’ve been through and understand what they are experiencing.
There are days and circumstances where you don’t feel like interacting with the average person who has a ‘normal life’, I call it. At least there, you can interact with sisters who actually understand what you have been going through. It is a chance to catch up with them and see how they have progressed and are rebuilding their lives, they inspire you to regain control over your life. That is what you feel has been snatched from you when you experience the initial stages.
HHUGS has consistently supported me, even though I’ve been working, if I have ever had a shortfall or anything, or struggling financially, especially during COVID. I wasn’t working and they helped me a lot during that period. They provided shopping and clothing vouchers, their uniform, assisting with madrassa fees. I still wanted to provide my children with the same things that other children do, even though their father was not there. In Winter, they helped when the bills have gone up and fuel prices have gone high. They provided electric heaters, blankets and things like that. These things matter the most.
Finding the confidence to get back on my feet
During COVID, they reached out me and asked if I needed any additional food packages during that time. I had lost my job at the time. HHUGS helped with one of the courses I was doing was online when I didn’t have access to a laptop. They helped funded the purchase of so I complete my coursework.
They even helped me in regard to my business as well. It was lack of confidence that always stopped me. It was a stepping stone for me to believe I could do this for myself. That helped a lot as I didn’t have the funds upfront to buy stock. Now I am running it alongside my main job and it is still running at a steady pace. I felt empowered that I have the strength and confidence now to build my business and interact with people because they had faith in me. Now I do it without a second thought whereas before I was hesitant. Now it has enabled me to be a bit more financially independent and provide for my kids. Always in the back of my mind I think I wouldn’t ever be in this position if HHUGS had not given me that push to go in that direction and build my business and be independent alhamdulillah. It would’ve still been on the back burner.
Because I work term time only, I don’t have income during holiday periods. Normally, I would have to borrow money to cover uniform costs and things like that. So, the Back 2 School campaign helps us immensely. They know how difficult it is to ask from other people. Alhamdulillah, I was able to equip my kids with everything they were in need of like uniforms, PE kits, without having to borrow money. And, as kids get older, the cost of everything goes up, especially with the current cost of living, so having that support has alleviated the burden. It’s a relief knowing there is someone there to help. When you are a single parent, having that support is like a backbone. It’s knowing that if I’m struggling, HHUGS will support me to get back on my feet. They will help me temporarily when I might be struggling more than other times.
It’s taken me almost 10 years to feel like I am in control of my life again and can be independent. That would not have happened if HHUGS had not supported me in those early stages, helping me get back on my feet. Alhamdulillah they provide support in these areas because they want us to be independent and get our lives back on track. They want us to rebuild that confidence, regain stability in life and be there as a stepping stone. I feel they have excelled in that job.
Restoring light to our home
Family is the first word that comes to mind when I think of HHUGS. HHUGS has been my backbone over the last ten years. May Allah reward them for all the work they have been doing.
In a time like in Ramadan when I feel isolated, the gifts came as a surprise, My kids used to look forward to HHUGS sending something. They were excited that they knew a box was coming and I would say to them, “It’s from HHUGS”. They were always things like resources in there for the kids during Ramadan and things to decorate the house, just to make it a little bit easier for them. This was just to give them a homely environment and a bit of light or happiness in their home which had been taken away, but is being re enforced and rebuilt for them.
It’s always a blessing to receive it and knowing you are being remembered. Even if the local community doesn’t remember you, or your family and friends don’t remember you, HHUGS never forgets us.
They have also offered counselling sessions, and I think this is very important where these facilities are not always available through the NHS because of the backlog of services or put on hold. They did also offer 1-2-1 key worker support for my daughter and that helped a lot. She knew she had someone she could speak to, even if it wasn’t a professional counsellor, she knew she had another outlet that wasn’t family or friends.
A lifeline for the forgotten and outcast
HHUGS provides a support network for families who are often forgotten, shunned and outcast. Our community needs to remember such families are not criminals. They are mothers, daughters, sons and fathers and they have had a big loss and impact on their life. It’s our responsibility as a community to support each other, in any way, shape, or form that we can. Ultimately our reward is with Allah. You hear a lot of people say, “We didn’t know how bad it was until it happened to us”.
You will never know when that knock comes or that raid is going to happen. You don’t know the impact it leaves behind on the immediate family, and especially the children- that is something that stays with them for life. It’s not something you can overcome by yourself, so we need to be the support to help them to reintegrate within the community and be welcomed again. HHUGS is a registered charity and they have been doing this work for over a decade. Just think, if it was one your family members in this situation. You would want someone there to support them if you were not able to physically do so yourself. Put yourself in their shoes, because it’s an obligation as Muslims that when a believer feels pain that another should feel it as well. Allah says to us if we help others, He will help us. You don’t know when your good deeds are going to benefit you as well.