Tandrima joined Mustard Tree after fleeing India as an asylum seeker and settled here in January 2018. Tan bravely shared her story of her journey, her drive for change and her hopes for the future as she waits in hope for her asylum decision.
“In India I suffered domestic violence and religious persecution in my marriage. For so long I stayed because I didn’t know I deserved better. Once things started happening to my daughters, I knew I had no choice but to leave. I had to leave with my youngest daughter December 2017 and leave my eldest one behind. I couldn’t take both if I had I wouldn’t have rescued any of them. It was the hardest decision I have ever made. I can only just talk about it out loud now, I couldn’t talk about it at all before,” says Tandrima
Tandrima first came to Liverpool to claim asylum and with her younger daughter, she was housed in a women’s emergency shelter.
“It was a really nice experience. Obviously it’s challenging living in one room and sharing everything but I met so many lovely girls from around the world. I was so happy to have people around me all the time going through similar things,” says Tandrima
Often, asylum seekers have no choice about where they are placed and are moved for more permanent housing.
“Two months later, in January we got moved here and housed. The first thing I did was get my daughter registered in school and with a GP, which was the turning point for me. The GP got me introduced to Mustard Tree and said I should get involved as I didn’t know what to do with my time. I hadn’t been allowed to work before in India or have any independence. I really wanted to take that chance now I had come to UK to try new things learn and hopefully get a job eventually. I had never had these opportunities before,” says Tandrima
As an asylum seeker, you are not allowed to work, which aside from making it difficult to make ends meet, having nothing to do all day can erode the human spirit. Many of the people who come to Mustard Tree just want to do something productive and give something back. By joining our structured volunteer and training programme – the Freedom Project people have the opportunity to increase their confidence and skills.
“Being a volunteer here means I can help out in my own small way. I am on the helpdesk, registering people who are interested in joining Mustard Tree, answering calls taking details, deliveries and collections of furniture. I also help out with food club, helping people who come in to get food and cooking lunch twice a week for staff and volunteers,” says Tandrima
Becoming a volunteer on our Freedom Project was a huge step for Tandrima. It has enabled her to access so many opportunities that were closed to her before and vastly increasing confidence from understanding her own abilities.
“I take every opportunity I get to do new things! Swimming, yoga and Thai chi helping me keep fit not only physically but mentally. The ‘Positive You’ course helps domestic violence survivors to recognise the pattern of behaviour and find support. I am also doing a computer course – before I could only email but now I’m really starting to gain skills. Mustard Tree has opened all of these doors for me,” says Tandrima
Two months ago, Tandrima had the best news,” says Tandrima
“My eldest daughter has joined us in the UK! It was the best thing ever! I am so grateful to God. She’s only 19 and has suffered a lot. My hope is that she gets into her studies,” says Tandrima
Tandrima is still waiting to hear from the Home Office about her asylum decision, but in the meantime she is doing everything she can to build a new life for herself and her girls.
At the moment our decision is pending, but my plan is to do as much as possible to prepare myself so when I get my asylum decision, I can hopefully work and give back to this society because we have already received so much. I keep telling my girls to be thankful, that’s all we can say. I want to be out of benefits systems I want to be independent, work hard and enjoy my free life with my daughters. Having the little things, that’s my dream,” says Tandrima
Although still living in limbo – and waiting, Tandrima is seizing every opportunity she can at Mustard Tree, and is feeling much more positive about the future.
“Mustard Tree has changed everything for me. It’s not just what they do for you, it’s the atmosphere and how they make me feel. No one judges or tries to dominate you and your life. It’s shown me that everyone has a story, which helps so much with your own healing. Just making a cup of tea or lunch, they say so many thankyous. They make every small thing so special. My experiences in India feel like a million years ago now, it feels like something very heavy has been lifted from me. After so long feeling worthless and that no matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough or appreciated, coming here people made me feel like I am worth it.”