After some particularly traumatic circumstances surrounding her migration, and a soul-destroying waiting process before being granted asylum in the UK, what Lucy longed for the most was to find a job and feel useful and independent again.
However, the ride has not been as smooth as she had hoped for.
In Kenya where she comes from, Lucy worked as a masseuse. She used to run her own business and employed nine people, enjoying a relatively comfortable life. Unfortunately, Lucy is not able to work as a masseuse in the UK, as her Kenyan qualifications are not recognised in the UK and it would cost a lot of money and take a lot of time to retrain and start again from scratch.
Lucy currently works as a part-time cleaner, but her real aspiration is to become a care worker, specifically working as a support worker or live-in carer to support the elderly. She has already gained some qualifications in care work and is planning on acquiring more in the near future.
Despite that, she has encountered difficulties pursuing even an introductory role in the care sector. Agencies have only offered her work on a zero-hours contract basis. Lucy explains that this would be too risky a step for her to take, because she is aware of people with irregular working hours facing many problems. It can affect Universal Credit, with some becoming unable even to afford their home.
Lucy is still hopeful and persists with training and looking for a full time job. Meanwhile, she fills a lot of her free time volunteering at The Comfrey Project. She told us how at first she was supported by a different local charity that enrolled her in classes and started helping her settle into her new community. However, this support stopped soon after, when Lucy was issued with an asylum refusal from the Home Office.
The time that followed was marked by insecurity through long and complicated attempts to appeal and re-apply for asylum. It was a real low point for Lucy, causing her to feel like there was nothing worth living for. ‘I was crying all the time and I didn’t know anybody in Gateshead or Newcastle. I was just alone’, Lucy told us. Lucy was then referred to The Comfrey Project by her counsellor, to help with her anxiety and stress.
The Comfrey Project has since supported Lucy and given her a place to interact with like-minded people. She has made a number of friends and has been introduced to a wider social circle. ‘When I became a part of The Comfrey Project it really helped me change for the better. I think it is very important that both doctors and counsellors across the North East are aware of these types of programmes, so more people can benefit‘.