St Augustine's Centre Halifax - #BefriendingIs helping out in difficult times

Wed 2 Nov 2022

During #BefriendingWeek, let's hear what #BefriendingIs from St Augustine's Centre Halifax:


M registered as centre member (our client/service user) when she arrived in Halifax. She is a single lady from Afghanistan with three children. Her 10-year-old daughter suffers from epilepsy. She was very confused and had not a word of English when she arrived, seeking asylum.  

On my first meeting with her, with the help of a translator, I explained our befriending project – A Helping Hand. She was not sure about having a befriender from St Augustine's Centre and was very reluctant to make any decision. She cried most of the time.  Her main concerns were about how she would cope with this new environment with the language barrier and particularly she doesn't know about the UK system at all, for example how to get place in school for her children, where to go for help etc.  But after I explained that her befriender will be trained to support her and that the project ensures confidentiality, safeguarding, code of conduct, DBS and so on, she said she wanted a female befriender.  

By considering her preferences I paired her up with Syma, who started visiting her in September 2021. Syma lives in Halifax and speaks the same language as M’s second language so they are able to communicate fluently. From the volunteer log which Syma has to complete after every contact, I came to know how Syma’s presence makes a huge difference to M’s life. She started by helping her with shopping, going out with her for a walk etc.  Then she encouraged her to go to attend free events at St Augustine's centre.  

This gave M confidence to do something whilst the children are in school. She was a beautician back home and that’s her passion too. She wanted to give back something to St. Augustine’s so she started as a beauty volunteer at the centre. She gives free eyebrow threading treatments to other women members of St. Augustine's community. After a while she started cooking in the centre’s Welcome Café as a volunteer once a week. She is a part of the team which provides 100 takeaway meals for the community. Through volunteering in the kitchen, she made another friend Khatra who is from Afghanistan as well and has good English. M regularly attends our English classes and is growing in confidence to speak and make herself understood in English.   

I called M from time to time to just check how the relationship is going.  These are three extracts from the volunteer Befrienders log show the progress that M has made: 

13 Sep 2021 
Met M she seems very anxious. She needed support from me to find shops in the local area where she could buy the things she needed.  
15 Nov 2021
I visited M at home. We had lovely conversations and we spoke about her life. She told me how she is doing eyebrows as a Volunteers at St Augustine’s Centre. She said she would do mine! This was such a lovely experience to share. She did an amazing job! I took some chai and biscuits over for us to have which we enjoyed together. 
2 Dec 2021
I went to visit M today at home and we had a coffee and some biscuits. I took over my paint by numbers kit to do with her as I felt this may help her with her English and it is also a lovely mindful activity. I forgot the brushes at home though! So I shall take this next week. We spoke about life, her wishes, her strength. She spoke of her children's ambitions and we shared stories of life. She has an active schedule with St Augustine's which is so lovely to see.  


In the space of four months. M has made a transition from being new in Halifax, unable to manage independently, to becoming a lady who is involved in two different volunteering roles, has made friends, is attending English classes and other activities.  She is outwardly more self-confident and is able to manage her family life and her own situation with a far greater degree of independence.  


Comments from M about A Helping Hand (through a translator) 

“I was very depressed when I came here first. I spent all of the time with my children at home. I was alone and very nervous and anxious. But now I have friends, I am busy, I can go shopping to buy things. I am independent and I am progressing. Thank you to A Helping Hand and everyone at St Augustine's who helped me out in my difficult times and helps me believing in myself. “ 


By: St Augustine's Centre Halifax

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