As winter approaches, we can start to look forward to the arrival of the holiday season and the start of a New Year. However, for some, the winter months can cause feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, hardship and despair.
This winter, with your help, we hope to raise £10,000 for people living on the streets, alone and vulnerable across Luton and Central Bedfordshire.
It’s the feedback from our beneficiaries that helps to demonstrate the difference you could make this year. This is Flora’s story.
“At the age of 4 I was adopted with my siblings. We were taken in by a large family but it wasn’t a happy time. I experienced beatings and sexual abuse, it was traumatic and I developed destructive behaviours as a result.
I spent twelve years with my adopted parents, but at the age of 16, I was asked to leave. I hoped the road forward into adulthood would be better with work, home and relationships, I even got a job at a pizza restaurant.
Despite everything, I stayed committed to getting my education and finished my A levels – achieving C’s. I got into the University of Bedfordshire, but my adoptive mum declined to state her earnings, so my student finance was not approved.
I didn’t have enough money to live and couldn’t afford to even rent a bedroom. The Uni had a 24hr library, so I took to sleeping for 3hrs at a time in the disabled toilets, using jackets as a blanket and a rucksack as a pillow.
I was offered a two-week respite in a student house. I was told that I should go back home to family, but I had no family to return to. I managed to get a small student loan and I was able to rent a room for two months.
Although I would attend the odd lecture, eventually I was struggling so much that I virtually abandoned the course. I felt I was failing. At 19, I wanted nothing more but to have fun with my university friends and live a normal life, but I couldn’t, I had nothing.
I didn’t want to get help or eat at the street soup kitchens, but in winter 2018 I did go to a food bank. I received one parcel and was told that I needed to be referred. I was given a list of referral charities which included NOAH.
I didn’t want to go into NOAH. I felt embarrassed and humiliated. I gave myself a pep talk. “Did I really want to not eat again today?” I walked past the building twice before going in to get help. It was very hard to admit that I needed help.
I was terrified walking up to the front door of the NOAH Welfare Centre. I did not want to talk to anyone or look them in the eye as that was far too scary. I just wanted some food and to walk away. But finally I did go in and I spoke to a lady who asked me a couple of questions about my situation. She gave me a packed lunch and a hot sandwich. She was discreet, kind and told me that I could have a shower or some clothing if I needed it. I felt a huge sense of relief and it finally felt like someone cared.
The environment at NOAH was welcoming. No one was shocked, or raised their eyebrows at me, I wasn’t stereotyped or judged, I could be me. Once I registered with NOAH, I was given advice on how to get housing. But what mattered to me the most, was that I wasn’t forced to do anything I didn’t want to do.
Since then life has moved on, and with the support of NOAH’s Training Academy, I got myself a paid job. They helped me build skills, get work experience and realise my potential in life. They gave me the confidence I needed to believe in myself. I now have hopes to progress into a team leader role or move into work as a special needs teaching assistant eventually.
I also found the confidence to go and get therapy, which has helped me come to terms with the things that have happened to me in my life. It’s enabled me to manage my mental health much better these days so I can continue to improve my life.
So this is my life, my story. I have accepted it and come to terms with it. I know that I have experienced trauma and hurt, and I hope that sharing my story will help others. My experience has made me who I am today. I am positive about the future and am so grateful to NOAH. Without them, my life could have turned out a lot differently.”
You could make a real difference to people like Flora by donating to our winter appeal this year.
We understand that you may be facing financial difficulties of your own, but every pound you donate could help to ensure that people like Flora receive the care and support that they deserve in life.
Every story is different at NOAH, but our aim is always the same – to alleviate poverty and bring hope.
£15 provides clothing for one person
£20 could feed a person for one whole week
£30 could provide 30 lunch packs
To make a donation, click here.
Thank you for your support!