Imagine being a new young parent and finding out your child has a rare and serious illness. Now, imagine you are in a foreign country, having been forced to flee your home because of war. You have left behind family and friends to come to a place where you know nobody and have no one to help you.

Many Home-Starts around the country are supporting a growing number of refugee families who have escaped conflict or persecution and are looking for protection in the UK.

This was the situation facing Aminatu*, who left her life in West Africa during a civil war in her country five years ago.

Aminatu arrived in the UK and was placed in Cardiff, knowing nobody, and speaking no English.

“I wanted to go back home straight away,” she remembers. “It was like no place I had ever known. I was going crazy at that time. I didn’t even know how to say ‘hello’. It was very difficult for me.”

Aminatu was pregnant when she arrived in Cardiff and her first child was born shortly after. It was her health visitor who first helped her to access resources for refugees. But it was when her second child was born that she came in to contact with Home-Start Butetown, Grangetown, Riverside.

Her second child was born with sickle cell anaemia, a rare blood disorder. Aminatu had two young children, no support at all, and had a child who needed a lot of care. She was incredibly isolated and vulnerable. Her health visitor introduced Aminatu to Home-Start.

“I was really dispirited at the time I met Home-Start”, she recalls. “I had so many thoughts in my head. I couldn’t sleep at night.” So Home-Start matched her with a volunteer who visited her each week.

“Home-Start helps me a lot,” Aminatu says, “I was free to talk to my volunteer and I can talk about the things I feared. She gives me hope. I am stronger because of Home-Start. I know if I have a problem there is someone I can tell my problems to and who can give me good advice.”

When it became clear Aminatu was also facing problems with her claim to stay in the UK, Home-Start BGR began supporting her through their dedicated refugee support programme, run by Fehmida Ahmed.

Home-Start BGR felt that existing services available to refugees didn’t meet the needs of parents trying to raise children in this very stressful situation because they weren’t designed with families in mind.

Fehmida helped Aminatu find a solicitor to help her with her case, and helped her to explain how her situation has changed since she first arrived in the UK.

People in Aminatu’s situation are not able to work to earn money, and receive support far below normal entitlements. With cases taking years to resolve, it means parents trying to provide a safe and stable home for their children can face extreme levels of stress, which has a big impact on their mental health.

“They have to make a home for their children” explains Fehmida, “but they have such little income to provide for their families or to do even the most basic activities.”

Now, with Home-Start BGR’s support, Aminatu is starting to have more hope. “I have been taking classes to integrate myself, to fight in my life,” she says. “For me, Home-Start does a lot, and I really do have hope with them”.

To find out more about Home-Start BGR’s refugee and asylum support programme, click here.

* Aminatu is not her real name. We have changed Aminatu’s name to protect her anonymity.