Mariana sought asylum in the UK from Angola. When she was refused asylum she became destitute, with no right to work or to claim benefits. She lived destitute, dependent on friends and charity, for five years with her baby son.
Four years ago on Christmas Eve, when my son was two years old, the woman I was staying with told me that she was going to her family on Christmas Day and she didn’t want us in her house while she was gone. So I didn’t know where to go. I rang another friend who reluctantly said we could come to them. I had to get from Colindale to Ilford on Christmas Eve. It took forever. We had to take several buses. I remember sitting on the 25 bus that goes from central London to Ilford, with my son sleeping against me. I was looking out at the Christmas lights and people with their shopping. I thought, Christmas is not for us. At the house we went to, there were no presents for us – obviously, we were not expected, we were not very welcome. I had to protect my son from realising that all the other children had presents but he didn’t.
All I longed for that Christmas and the next Christmas and one after that was a roof over our heads. Just that. Nothing but a roof over our heads. Now, thank God we have that. Women for Refugee Women helped us access support and now I have leave to remain and we have a little flat. I am looking for work now and I am on Jobseekers’ Allowance while I seek work. I volunteer at a charity while my son is at school to try to improve my skills. A month ago my benefits were stopped because they said I wasn’t trying hard enough to find work. I had been trying to save for Christmas. I had dreamed of having a little Christmas tree with a present under it for my son on Christmas morning. But I know there are women worse off than us – women who are homeless like we were for five years.
Read Mariana’s first blog at https://womenforrefugeewomen.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/our-life-on-the-streets-a-destitute-mother-speaks/