Wednesday, November 22, 2006


When I first met M, just under four years ago, she was curled up, silent and clearly terrified.

Having fled her home in Africa following the murder of her mother and brother and her own second period in prison (torture sessions thrown in at no extra charge), she'd arrived in Britain seeking safety.

What she found was an incompetent solicitor and a government who had just passed laws that left people like herself destitute with no legal means of feeding themselves or finding shelter.

Alone, cold, frightened - no wonder she looked like a text-book picture for 'traumatised'.

Very soon though this stranger started to come out of her shell and soon we could see for ourselves the political activist, the fighter, the intelligent, articulate, feisty young woman.

The next year was quite a journey - negative decisions, appeals, and finally 'indefinite leave to remain'.

In the midst of that we brought M to Greenbelt and she worked the Escape to Safety exhibition. I remember seeing her in action, seeing the educator in her come out and seeing her hold the respect of all who she spoke to - finding the guts to tell her story for the sake of the bigger picture, for the sake of others facing what she had. I remember feeling so proud of the community that had her saying that for the first time since leaving Africa she had found herself again.

I'm in awe of her. In my life I didn't need to develop the knowledge and philosophy that "Even at the worst moments when part of you just wants it all to end, you find that something in you still wants to hold on to life. But, you know you must never hold your own life so dear that you won't sacrifice it if necessary, for the sake of the next generation".

I remember talking to her when she'd finally got the positive determination and reflecting that at last she could now really start thinking about the future. Her priority was to train or work in some field that would be of use for the day she hopes for, when it's safe for her to return home. Something that would help her take her part in rebuilding her community.

And so, she's now in her final year of a Community Health degree, working every spare moment still to pay her way.

We've progressively seen her less and less over the years, and that's cool. She doesn't need us now, she's flown that temporary little nest that we were able to provide for her. She's found a new life here now and it's fantastic to see.

But tonight, P, S and myself head a few miles east to her new pad to catch up. It's been months, too many months. We get to meet her new man (who is clearly shy and in awe of her, but treating her well and that's good enough for me) and the bump that very soon will be a new life in this world.

M is glowing both physically and emotionally; a long long way from that scared little creature I first met all those years ago.

As we say our goodbyes at the end of the visit, we tell P he's a brave, brave man taking on our feisty M, but as we leave there's a lump in my throat. It's nice when things work out.

1 comment:

sally said...

oh liz. xxx (((())))