My name is ‘Nimali’ and I am 28 years old. I’m from Sri Lanka. I came to UK after I got married in Sri Lanka and my husband brought me to the UK. I was financially dependent on him. In Sri Lanka I was a hard working student and I was glad to enrol on a Masters at a university in the UK. My whole life revolved around my dream of becoming a research scientist.
However, within the short space of 4 months my life changed.
My husband began to assault me. I was a regular victim of domestic violence. One day I ended up in hospital with severe injuries. I had never spoken to anyone about the abuse I was suffering. Thank God the staff at the hospital recognised the injuries and contacted the authorities straight away. I was filled with such relief.
The authorities arrested my husband in early 2014 and after he breached three restraining orders, he was finally arrested in 2014 and sent to prison. His family were very angry and they threatened to kill me if I ever returned to Sri Lanka. In my culture it is common for a man to do anything to a woman and get away with it. There are little rights for women in my country. Men can get away with abuse and violence. I was glad the hospital contacted the authorities after seeing my injuries. I was relieved. It was my chance to get out of there. Like I said, I wasn’t married for very long only 18 months.
Suddenly I was left alone in the UK and I had to claim asylum. I didn’t come Cardiff straight away. I began part time work in a care home since they allowed me to work. I was allowed to work but my husband informed the immigration authorities that I was not allowed to work. I then lost my job and all support so I had to apply for NASS Support. Although I was still enrolled in a university in England, I was dispersed to Cardiff as part of the support conditions.
It was a very hard time for, an extremely difficult time. My life changed again overnight. I used to save my money that I received from NASS Support and travel to my university in England from Wales and that’s how I continued my studies.
I had nobody. I had no friends in Cardiff. I became depressed and I was put on anti-depressants. I was doing research in cancer biology. My divorce took a very long time and my husband refused to sign the papers. I was lucky that I received legal aid. We had to convince the judge that he was continuously harming me. He had a restraining order but my husband still continued to threaten me. It took 9 months to finalise the divorce and my husband was contacting me throughout on social media and via phone. He hacked my emails and my Facebook. Looking back, he was violent throughout our marriage.
I was devastated when I was dispersed to Cardiff. I felt so isolated. I had no friends and I thought my studies were over. I became severely depressed as a result and had to take anti-depressants. I had to live in initial accommodation which was horrendous. I kept thinking about how I had a scholarship, an opportunity to come to this country. Growing up, my parents were divorced and I lived in boarding school since I was ten. I had scholarships all my life in Sri Lanka because my dream was to become a scientist and I studied very hard. I finished my masters with distinction. I want to finish my PhD and right now my dream depends on completing my PhD. They refused me at court. The Home Office suggest that I can go to another rural area and abandon my life goals and not live in the city where all the opportunities are. But I am 28 years old and I have dedicated most of my life to get to where I am today.
For the first few months I was depressed and had my own problems to deal with. I would never go out and I would just stay in my Home Office accommodation in my room. I didn’t have access to internet so my research began to suffer and take much longer. To get a slot to use the internet in the library would take a very long time.
Then a friend told me about the Trinity Centre. It was one of the first places I came to in Cardiff. The food bank here really helped me. With NASS support you really have to stretch your pound. I was lucky to find nutritious and healthy food here. I began to volunteer as an English teacher. All I have is time to offer. I am not allowed to work. So volunteering helps me to keep my mind busy, help the community and it helps me with my depression.
If I didn’t have the Trinity Centre space, I would be inside my house and with my own negative thoughts. The Trinity Centre allows me to interact and be part of a community. Human beings need to be part of a community.
My friends have also received a lot of help from the Trinity Centre. For example, my friend arrived here with no English and the Trinity Centre, through Space4U, helped him to learn English. The Trinity Centre has been an important lifeline for asylum seekers while their claim is being processed and after their status as refugees. I was lucky because my level of English was great but I know others have not been so lucky. So I know how important Trinity Centre is for them.
If as an asylum seeker you are going through trouble, this is the first place that you will come to for help in Cardiff. All the leisure activities help the men and it is a great stress reliever for them. I enjoy volunteering on the English class and I love seeing the expression on the men’s faces when they learn a new word. They are craving knowledge and full of enthusiasm.