I Worry - A new addition to our PACT quilt inspired by some of our experiences during COVID-19
PACT's Writing Group share some of their experiences, concerns and revelations during isolation and COVID-19.
We find that sharing our stories can help to offload some of the worries that weigh us down and maybe we can reach others who are experiencing similar struggles.
COVID-19 and why I worry
Life under isolation due to COVID-19 has greatly affected migrant women and their families. This pandemic has made difficult situations even worse and has really highlighted social inequalities in the UK.
Here are some of the reasons why I worry.
What if you can’t access the internet?
Life used to be very difficult before this pandemic, but at least we could attend weekly workshops with our children at PACT. We could see our friends and talk one on one. With the existence of COVID-19, government guidelines suggest social distancing to stay safe, meaning that all programs and parenting courses have been suspended. While we can still talk over the phone or join Zoom groups, it doesn’t feel the same and it really makes me worry for all the families who do not have friends to call and check on them. I worry for all the families who do not have access to the internet who miss out on social meetings organised through video calls and will not be able to input their ideas towards campaigns that they have worked so hard on. This is stressful as they might have a lot to say!
What if you can’t access government support?
As a migrant woman awaiting her documents with the Home Office, life is very hard, hostile and challenging. This is partly because it's impossible to access government services, which are reserved for those with documents. Being a migrant mum makes life even harder! We can't have a personal bank account, making it impossible to order and pay for goods and services online. We are not allowed to work in the UK but are subjected to very high Maternity Care costs of up to £7000, which can put a great strain on our mental health and can make us fearful of asking for help. While no charges will be made for the testing or treatment of COVID- 19, I worry that families might be too scared to seek treatment and support due to past experiences.
What if you can’t isolate?
Housing is also another challenge that we face, especially those of us who are under the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) Team. I worry for those of us placed in overcrowded and unsuitable hostels with our children. Some of these hostels have about thirty-three rooms with shared kitchens and a shared washing machine. The lucky mums will be sharing a flat or house with two or three other housemates. I worry that it will be too hard to abide by the government's social distancing guidelines - how can we isolate when we are living one family to a room with so many others.
What if you can't clean your clothes?
Some of the housing companies that the No Recourse To Public Fund Team contract to house migrant mums and their families make life really hard and hostile. As a mum, we need to wash our babies clothes frequently. Some of these housing companies will take the washing machine out meaning that mums will have to go pay for washing and drying at the launderette. This can cost up to £10/ wash and dry. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the UK is in lockdown. This means that shops are closed and hygiene is even more important. Life is even harder now because mums don't know where exactly to go for laundry services. This is so frustrating especially when dirty clothes start piling up.
COVID_19 what is wrong with you? Please take a chill pill and restore our normal life back!
My experience during the Coronavirus
This has been a difficult time. We are a family of five so it has felt like we are living on top of each other, the little ones get bored very easily and it is hard to keep them busy as they get very restless.
What I have found the hardest is watching my oldest daughter who is 10. She was preparing for her SATs and was going to start maths booster classes as she needed the help. Now we are told that there will be no SATs which is what she was working towards, but also there will be no school activities like the year 6 play or disco. Will school re-open in time for her to say goodbye to her friends? To get her t-shirt signed? To hug her best friend before they leave for different secondary schools? Will she have a chance to give her teachers their gifts? Will she be able to visit her secondary school for the induction before going? She was already nervous now this has made her feel worse. I worry that she will fall be-hide on her school work as I'm not very good at maths and I have dyslexia that I'm sure will affect how I can help her.
As we have been in isolation we have not been able to leave the house at all due to vulnerable children, two of my children suffer from eczema and my youngest is the worst which affects her breathing and she’s very sensitive to illnesses. Due to the self-isolation, I have had to rely on other family members to bring us things that I was unable to get before going into isolation. This makes me feel guilty as I feel they are leaving the house more often than they should be to help me.
We are still struggling with basic things such as toilet paper, bread, pasta and milk as before this we did not stockpile as we thought there was no need. It was only after when our family members said that the panic buying hadn’t stopped that we started worrying. Now we are low on most things that are essential and we try to get things delivered but there are no slots for 2 to 3 weeks. This means that next week I will need to leave the house and we have ordered gloves and masks but due to shortages this has been delayed. I will have no choice but to leave the house with no protection and this puts a lot of strain on myself and my partner.
I don’t feel the GP or 111 have been quite helpful, my oldest had a throat infection and was on antibiotics for five days once that was finished she was still not well enough but at this time we were already isolating. I can understand GP not accepting appointments for new cases of fever or coughing but this was an old issue in the end after almost a week I got a call back from the doctor who confirmed over the phone that it sounded like she needed another dose of antibiotics. I asked him how he could be sure without examining her and was told it was a guess and if she is not better to call again. Hearing this does not ease a mother’s worry.
I have friends that are single parents that feel they are getting no support at all or help during this time as they can’t leave their kids at home alone but are scared to take them out as well. I've been told there are too many elderly people out doing their shopping when they should be more protected at home. Accessible advice needs to be out there for the most vulnerable.
It's not easy, but we must spread love
The first week was very chaotic. On the first day, we didn’t know what we were doing, especially with the kids, with the school. Everything was online, which was a new area for me and the kids. We couldn’t understand the homework from my daughter’s secondary school, so I had to send an email back to her school. Straight away I had an email sent to me from her school from the Head of Year 8. It was very helpful, and I asked if any of the teachers could call me or help one to one and email me directly so that I can easily connect with them.
It was very easy from then, the second day we started to settle, and we began to understand how to work from home. I used to think that my kids were not studying enough but when you see the work my daughter has done after a whole week. She has finished 17 pieces of work, which I was very amazed! I sent it back to her school and I got a good response.
It’s not easy, especially the shopping. I find it very emotionally draining. You feel a little scared when you go out. It's fear that you and the kids will get infected so I try to avoid it as much as I can. Sometimes you think – is it better to do the shopping alone? I do my best to buy only what I need. We don’t need to get out, we have a balcony and the kids are enjoying themselves, sometimes watching TV, sometimes they draw, write, read books, watch things on the internet - lots of Youtube.
I think it was good that we had the Zoom meet up at PACT. It was great to connect with our community and see all the familiar faces, to greet each other and it felt that we are still united. Thank goodness for this technology that it is helping us to reconnect.
We are trying to avoid watching lots of news, you know my advice as a parent is to try and make it positive. Make your children confident in what they are doing and let them know that this is going to be ok, that it will be over soon and not worry and be calm at home. The kids will get it from you if you are not calm, they will sense it quick.
I am doing my best to do lots of cooking, lots of baking and do simple stuff like a normal day. We watch TV together and enjoy ourselves, talk together and be as normal as we can.
We try to understand how some people may be grieving right now and try to reflect to appreciate the small things.
I felt really heartbroken when my friend came to visit by car, she couldn’t come in but she waved from outside and we talked from the balcony and it was really good as we haven’t been able to see each other for a while. It was great and a little heartbreaking at the same time, but you can see that people can connect and we must treasure our relationships and spread love.