Every year, thousands of refugees flee their own countries in search of a better life but even when they do find a new home the problems they face just get bigger.
This was why Mothers Together was set up to help mothers who have been through the immigration system with everyday life. Whether it is through the weekly peer support groups in Salford or through the food vouchers that are provided.
The groups are run through the connections from the community interest company (CIC) Visit from the Stork which helps support mothers across Greater Manchester.
From March 2020 to 2022 the CIC delivered 4,814 parcels across Greater Manchester and helped 1,500 families with baby essentials within the same time frame. As of March 2022, the group is funded by the National Lottery.
The mothers meeting groups are run by two women, Fatou Jinadu, a Community Organiser at Greater Manchester Immigration Unit and Project Worker for the Visit from the Stork CIC and Kimberley Bond. Who is the managing director and founder of the CIC and a journalist.
Ms Bond shared the reasons behind starting the mothers’ meeting sessions, saying: “It’s really, really important and these ladies who have been socially isolated, they might not even speak much English, they don’t have anyone in their own culture, or their background and they are brand new to Salford.”
Mrs Jinuda went onto say: “sometimes it’s not even about whether the support is there or not, it’s knowing that there are other people in the same situation or have lived experience of the same thing that you’re, the same thing that you’re going through.”
“what drives me to do this with these people, I can’t solve their issues, but I can give them other stuff while they are solving their issues.”
Ms Bond recalled how a phone call drove her to start the mother meeting sessions in Salford, “the reason we started doing this group was that I had a phone call from a woman who said: “I’ve phoned everybody and you’re the only person who said yes to me.”
Ms Bond recalled the conversation, sharing how this woman had fallen through the cracks after living in the UK for twenty years and running a corner shop that they had to then close. Ms Bond said:” they can come here and work and pay tax and national insurance and pay into the system like normal working people, but they have no recourse to public funds so they can’t claim benefits”.
They had nothing until the Visit from the Stork CIC provided them with food parcels, nappies, and wipes.
“We found that the lack of culturally appropriate food support in Salford was massive”
The group provides refugee mothers with food vouchers through its partnership with nearby Salford shop conveniently named Motherland. Ms Bond spoke about this: “We found that the lack of culturally appropriate food support in Salford was massive, and we have been running a campaign to get more of that happening.” The owner of the shop is Chukwudi Onuorah, he said: “it’s not just the products they can get but that interaction.” The collaboration with the mothers’ meetings and the CIC was: “very important.”
One of the members of the group who has asked to remain anonymous said: “When I came (here) knowing that I was going to a new house and I didn’t have like a cooker, I’m trying to set up now because the baby will be on the way. They even offered to make food for me, so every week I would be able to eat because I don’t have anywhere to cook. They got me (a) microwave and rice cooker to be able to help me warm my food.” The group member praised the group and the CIC saying: “It was great because everyone was just so supportive and so understanding.” While the group is constantly providing mothers with financial and emotional support, the issues surrounding immigration go far beyond this.
Ms Bond spoke on the issues surrounding immigration in the UK, saying: “they come to the UK, and they don’t get status, or they get status, but they don’t get recourse to public funds and no recourse to public funds is the crappiest policy I have ever seen in my life.” Someone subject to immigration cannot claim public funds (benefits and housing assistance) unless an exception applies.
Ms Bond spoke about the issues surrounding spouse visas, which means that refugees are completely dependent on someone else for their visa in the UK. Ms Bond went on to say: “we’ve got clients who have had domestic violence situations and broken up their husband or their husband has purposefully broken up with them as part of a domestic violence and that means they have been left with nothing again because they have no recourse for public funds again.” Bond spoke about the awful real-life consequences that this can have, she said: “we’ve got another client whos’ partner put the bills in her name even though he was paying them. Then when they broke up, all the bills were in her name, she had no money, she has no status so now she’s in debt, hundreds of pounds because the bills are racking up, he’s gone, he can work, and she can’t”. She described the situations as “beyond imaginable and crazy.”
Despite these issues, both Fatou Jinadu and Kimberley Bond are determined to keep the group running to help refugee mothers in Salford. Ms Bond said: “what drives me to do this with these people, I can’t solve their issues, but I can give them other stuff while they are solving their issues.”