Refugee Week 2022
How long have you lived in Leeds?
Coming to Leeds was a special experience for me, I came to Leeds in 2016 and arrived here as a result of a stressful situation. For two years the only people I knew were the other women who I lived with and I only knew of the GP, the bus station, the market and the library. I was completely isolated and didn’t know anything about Leeds.
Tell us about your experience of Rainbow Hearts?
I finally went to Rainbow Hearts for the first time in May 2018 after 2 years of living in Leeds. My house mate had told me about a women’s group she went to and she kept asking if I wanted to go but I was scared. I thought I would have to answer lots of questions and tell them about what happened to me. One day my housemate said to come with her to the group, I was very nervous and say quietly in a corner feeling shy. A member of staff came and talked to me, they welcomed me to the group and made me feel safe. Being given my bus fare made a huge difference, it was such a small amount of money but it makes a big difference for me.
Rainbow Hearts has opened up so many new opportunities and given me the chance to try new things; I have been able to go to opera performances and plays through the Arts Together programme, I have learnt how to cycle safely around the city and been supported in getting a bike of my own and I have been able to join in with sports such as badminton which I loved playing back home.
The women in Rainbow Hearts are nice and friendly, they help each other and support each other.
Rainbow Hearts was my first ever group, it has melted my fears of groups and now I am a part of many other groups across the city such as Your Space, Harmony Choir and Asmarina Voices. Through Rainbow Hearts I feel good in Leeds, I feel connected to the city and a part of our community.
*Name has been changed to protect anonymity
When I first came to Leeds I didn’t like it, I knew nobody, didn’t know where to go and had no friends here. I was getting vouchers from the Home Office and couldn’t use the bus so I had to walk everywhere.
It wasn’t a good experience until I was given a leaflet with some names on it and started calling round, finding out where to go. I found Pafras and they helped me learn more, things started to lighten up. I started to join groups and make friends. I wasn’t sure if I fit in, if I trusted anyone.
Rainbow Hearts felt like home.
Rainbow Hearts brings people who help, they helped me when I was struggling. It is somewhere I want to come. If I don’t come I miss my sisters. I have friends, support, trust. I can have some toast, a hot cup of tea, see friendly faces. Sometimes I’m down and I look at the faces of my sisters and I’m happy. Rainbow Hearts gives me the truth, they check you are ok and make you feel welcome, wanted and respected.
I miss my family, I left when they were young and now they are adults. It’s painful and I’ve missed every step with them. But Rainbow Hearts kept me going, I feel respected in not having to talk about my journey or what has happened to me. It’s painful to keep going over it. This journey hasn’t been easy, I’ve lost friends along the way but I’m still here.
Rainbow Hearts will always help – when you need a chat, a friendly face, to learn something, meet your friends - they are there.
Now I have friends and I miss them when I don’t see them, I make the effort to go to group and see my friends.
Don’t give up.