Rachida* was born and raised in Morocco before moving to the UK with her husband to begin a new life. Unfortunately, her plans for an exciting, fresh start did not materialise.
Forbidden to get a job by her husband, Rachida was told that her role was only to cook and clean. She experienced months of emotional and physical abuse before managing to flee the marital home and find a place in a women’s refuge.
In April 2022, Rachida moved into a Reigate and Banstead Borough Council allocated bed at YMCA Hillbrook House in Redhill.
“I find it hard to trust people like I did before,” says Rachida, 22. “This is not my country so everything is difficult to understand. I have left my family behind and I need practical support. At Hillbrook House there are people who can help me work everything out and tell me how to deal with my studies and get a job.”
YMCA East Surrey’s Housing Services provide opportunities for people aged 16 to 30 who are facing homelessness within the local community, helping them to access housing and offering support that meets their individual needs.
In FY 2021/22, we provided 20,485 nights of accommodation to vulnerable young people, compared to 18,250 the previous year. 8,516 hours of support were provided to residents.
In April 2022, we secured a new 5-year support contract with Surrey County Council. In continuing to deliver vital housing services and support over the past 12 months, YMCA East Surrey has laid a strong foundation which will help us to partner together with local councils to enable positive outcomes for young people.
Through the Y Focus programme, Rachida has attended confidence-building and job interview roleplay workshops, been supported to create a CV and explored work experience options. Y Focus offers regular activity workshops to residents, ranging from employability, money management and life skills, through to gym sessions, team building and mental wellbeing.
Rachida now attends college for two days a week to improve her English language skills and has been aided to convert the Baccalaureate qualification she achieved in Morocco to its equivalent in A Levels.
“I am happy now – I have my own space and I have freedom,” she says. “Even though I am a private person, it is still nice to be around other residents and people at college.”
Rachida feels that she is growing in confidence and her overall self-esteem. She is currently looking for a job and plans to spend this year working, studying and volunteering with the aim of starting a university course in September 2023.
“When I was a child I dreamed of being a nurse. It may be that I choose to do a degree course in nursing or I might choose to do something else. I want to show the world that I can do more than cook and clean.”
“I don’t know where I would be without YMCA East Surrey. I would be struggling with everything. Instead, I feel as if I am being looked after.”
“I want to make my life here because everything is better. I know I will be OK.”
* Real name and photo have not been used to protect anonymity.