2011 Review – Martha Clarke, Director of Communications
The end of the year often a time for reflection and taking stock and for me part of that means looking back at my first year at the Cardinal Hume Centre. ….so that’s just what I’ve done.
When I started out training as a journalist I never imagined I would end up working with homeless young people and those in need. Ready to save the world and fight for justice and freedom of speech – as most journalists are when they start out – I was determined to use the media to change the world. But I soon realised that you are far removed from those you want to speak out for. I moved from journalism into the world of international development. For many years I wrote stories about the plight of poor people all over the world. Victims of famine, war, poor Governance and corruption their situation was always desperate. In Sri Lanka I met tea pickers working like slaves for nothing more than enough to eat and a roof over their heads; in Sudan, families living in fear from attacks from the Jangaweed (devils on horseback); in Sierra Leone young girls and boys forced to become child solders. The girls raped and the boys fuelled with drugs and both forced to kill.
But poverty and its attendant problems are not only in the developing world. Here in the UK there are also many desperate people living from day to day with no home or family or future.
This year I’ve met just some of them. Martin, a young man, who became addicted to drink and drugs after his marriage broke up and he lost his job. He ended up in prison – a victim of a society which has little or no time for the vulnerable. Aramina, a Yemani woman who fled her home, in fear of losing her life because of her work campaigning for women’s rights. Despite the death threats she had to fight hard and long for asylum in the UK. Lamin, a former child soldier from Somalia who arrived alone in the UK. He worked hard in hotels up and down the country and in his spare time gained a degree but could find no work. Most movingly of all, Anna, a 17 year old girl living on the streets who at 17 felt she had no alternative but to sleep with strangers to get a bed for the night – over a 2 month period she slept with a dozen different men.
These people all had stories to tell that brought me up short. How do you cope when you are cold, lonely, and frightened with nowhere to go and no future to look forward to.
Life – as I’ve learned – holds many surprises for us all. Working here has brought home to me that for some people these surprises are much more drastic than for others. But with some support and advice people can and do rebuild their lives…both here and around the world.
Martin is now living happily with a partner and new baby in his own home with a job he loves and a future to look forward to.
Aramina now has the legal right to remain in the UK.
Lamin is living in a bedsit and setting up his own business
And Anna has been given a roof over her head and is being counselled and cared for.
Names have been changed for confidentiality.