In 2011, Zahara was independent, had her own business and was doing well in Ethiopia.
In 2011, she underwent an arranged marriage to a man who had been in the UK for 25 years, after three weeks of a relationship. Her new husband decided he wanted her to come to the UK. It was hard to leave everything to start a new life.
After a few months of marriage, Zahara saw a different side to her husband – he became very violent, and eventually threw her out. She didn’t know what she’d do. She found it difficult to talk about her situation with her family or community because of the shame.
At one point, Zahara ended up sleeping quite a few days in streets around Leicester Square. This was of course, a very scary time indeed for her. She was praying: “God help me.” Eventually, the workers at the Notre Dame Refugee Centre referred her to Housing Justice, who found her a host space with a lady called Anne Marie.
She met her new host and a worker from Housing Justice in a coffee shop, and immediately felt as if she was being rescued, but didn’t want to get her hopes up and wondered how long she’d be accommodated for her.
Anne Marie was like a mum to her; meeting Anne Marie through Housing Justice changed Zahara’s impression of people.
Anne Marie reassured Zahara that everything would be OK. Zahara knew she had someone who cared about her, somewhere to sleep, and while she was sad, this was not like before.
In April 2017, Zahara received a phone call from her caseworker, to be told she had been granted Leave to Remain. She said, “What? I can’t believe it! God, how you love me and on top of that get me what I deserve!” It’s still unbelievable for her.
The future is bright – she will study and keep her “new mum” forever. She loves being with Anne Marie but doesn’t want to be selfish. Someone else needs a place, and Zahara is willing to be part of Housing Justice at any time and do any voluntary job, because she wants others to be helped.
First, she wants to say that she’s been blessed to be in this organisation, doesn’t have enough words to say “thank you.” To potential hosts, “It’s a beautiful and blessed thing to do – she got a mum for life. (She is another daughter, for a lifetime.)”