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Eight Miles Away Fund – Hawal

21st February 2022

Sanctuary Supported Living

Stock image of a woman looking through a curtain

The latest person to receive a grant from the Eight Miles Away Fund has faced more adversity in a few short years than anyone could imagine in an entire lifetime. With the support of the team at Sanctuary Supported Living’s Brighton & Hove Foyer, she has plans to build a better future. This is Hawal’s* story.

At just 18 years old, Hawal lived in fear for her life in her native Iran where she was in her second year of nursing studies. A Kurdish national, she had been part of a women’s rights group and, as this was deemed illegal by the government, the police issued a warrant for her arrest. If captured, she faced torture and 15 years in prison without a trial or right to appeal.

Thankfully, Hawal managed to escape the country, but was forced to leave her family behind and travel alone to the UK to seek asylum in 2017. Her journey was far from straightforward and she experienced significant trauma during her crossing to the UK, which impacts on her mental health and wellbeing to this day.

On arrival, the Home Office placed her in a shared house with six other women while her status as an asylum seeker was assessed. She was granted refugee status and told that she would be eligible to apply to become a British citizen after five years. However, just one month into her stay, she was issued with an eviction notice and given one month to leave the house, without any support to find alternative accommodation. The council was unable to help and she found herself sleeping rough on the streets of Brighton for a week.

By chance, a connection within the local Kurdish community led to an offer of a place to stay in a one-bedroom flat with someone who was initially supportive and they began a romantic relationship. In the beginning, the relationship was positive and her partner was supportive when she was offered at place at Sanctuary Supported Living’s Brighton & Hove Foyer.

Hawal said: “At first, he was like an angel supporting me but as time passed, the relationship turned abusive physically and emotionally. I felt trapped and scared for my life again. I managed to build up the courage to discuss this with my key worker and I was supported to end the relationship.”

Sadly, due to safety concerns, Hawal had to escape for the second time in her life – this time to an emergency domestic violence refuge service in London. She was unable to return to Brighton for two months.

Sometime after the situation had settled down, Hawal felt able to concentrate on her plans for the future; to live independently and resume her studies to become a nurse. She applied to the Eight Miles Away Fund for help with the cost of her IELTs – International English exam course, a laptop and software, as well as the deposit on a self-contained flat – a total of £3,000.

"I am ready to start rebuilding my life and become the nurse I was born to be"

Hawal, resident at Brighton and Hove Foyer

She said: “Once all my studies have been completed, I aim to work full time in nursing and end my benefit support. I am ready to start rebuilding my life and become the nurse I was born to be”.

Stephanie Smith, Lead Project Worker, said: “Hawal has faced many challenges in her life and has shown bravery in standing up for what she believes in and continuing to pursue a career in nursing in order to help others. Even though she battles daily with her mental health, she does not let this override her desire and commitment to success.

“The Foyer is just another stepping stone in Hawal’s life, her stay within Brighton & Hove Foyer has helped her gain more skills so that she can live independently and it has supported her to understand what a safe and secure environment looks like. With this knowledge, she can build her own safe space and look forward to an independent and happy future. I believe the funding from the Eight Miles Away Project is a golden opportunity which she very much deserves”.

*Not her real name. Hawal’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.