Mary House opened in June 2011 with the specific purpose of allowing mothers with babies to stay together. The British Red Cross have confirmed that for refugees/asylum seekers without access to public funds, Mary House is the only place in the South East that they can refer mothers and babies to, knowing that they can stay and live together. We currently have 4 mothers and 6 children living there as well our two volunteers (Kaya and Veronika) who help to manage the house and ensure that all of their needs are met. Many of the women who come to us have been faced with the devastating offer from local councils to remove their children into foster care until they can find accommodation.
This important work, helping some of the most marginalised people in our society today and keeping fragile families together, is not only essential for the good of the women and children for whom we provide a home, but also for society. We have seen many women and their children, after receiving asylum, over a period several months or even years, safely established in their own little flats or bedsits with their children, beginning independent and constructive lives. If their children had been taken away and fostered how different would these months or years have been for both parties and how long would it take for the emotional damage done by separation to be repaired. Especially on top of the trauma that these families have suffered before seeking help, often victims of domestic violence, rape and torture. Many of the children who stay with us have witnessed repeated assaults on their mothers; by providing a safe place for them both to recover and appropriate sign posting to counselling, we can immediately begin the recovery process. For older children, we work with local schools to move them into a stable learning environment, essential in the early school years, especially to those for whom English is not their first language.