When Rukshi was twenty she experienced an awful event which changed her life and left her homeless. This led to a couple of very difficult years, in which she had a baby and tragically ended with living in emergency accommodation without her daughter. She’s now living with YMCA DownsLink Group in 24 hour supported accommodation and with the support of her project worker, has begun to rebuild her life and her relationship with her daughter.
Rukshi tells her story in her own words:
Before I moved in with YMCA DownsLink Group, I was in emergency accommodation where I had been for quite a while. It wasn’t great and I had no support. I was struggling at the time after a court case where my ex-partner and I had nearly lost custody of our young daughter Summer (she is 2 now and living with my ex). I was also trying to come to terms with what happened to make us nearly lose custody, I knew I had some responsibility.
I was exhausted – it was an emotionally and mentally challenging time…. really difficult…. I was fighting for my daughter Summer. The court allowed us to keep Summer but gave my ex-partner Daniel custody. Although it was good that she wasn’t taken away, and that I could still see her, I found this really difficult.
Before this happened (about 4 years earlier when I was 20) I had to leave my family. I had an awful year where my parents took me to Algeria and tried to marry me to an older man. My siblings and I managed to stop this. I was left with anxiety, depression, and PTSD after this experience and ended up leaving home to get away from my mum. After a difficult couple of years (during which Summer was born) I ended up living in emergency accommodation.
My first YMCA DownsLink Group house immediately felt more homely. I loved Matt (my old keyworker) and it was nice to be somewhere which I could try and call home. I wasn’t working when I moved into YMCA (although I had previously worked as a care worker with older people) but with help from staff I got onto the Kickstart scheme to get back into work. I had an interview, and started working at a café. The cafe owners really liked me, and I was offered a permanent position after 3 months and I’m still working there now.
I’ve moved into a smaller YMCA DownsLink Group house which is quieter (fewer residents) and really homely. I really like it that the lounge and the kitchen are all in one! The staff are amazing, and I have made a new friend, another resident. My new keyworker Kate is always supportive, ready to listen and offer helpful advice. My ex-partner has family support, but I don’t have any support apart from what I get at YMCA.
I’m also seeing a lot more of Summer. My ex-partner is trying to trust me more. We are not there yet, but he allows me to see her more which is so important to me. I’m now taking her to playgroups on my own and I have started family mediation through YMCA DownsLink Group’s family mediation service to help me and my ex-partner communicate better. Kate helped set this up for me and Lisa (my mediator) is really supportive too.
Sometimes I think that only you guys at YMCA can see how far I’ve come and how much I’ve done to turn my life around! Summer means everything to me, it actually hurts that she is not with me and that I can’t look after her all the time. So, I do as much as I can to help Daniel with her. He is doing a really good job. My dream is to be able to have a place where I could have her overnight on my own regularly, but I know I have some responsibility for the fact this is not straightforward, because of something that happened when she was little and in my care.
One of the things I like about living with YMCA DownsLink Group are the chaplaincy meals. It’s good to have an independent person, like the chaplains, to listen; I wish it existed for those out there in emergency accommodation too. With the chaplaincy meals it is so nice to gather round and eat together – to talk and laugh- sometimes with background music. It’s nice that the staff come and eat too, sometimes we even have a dance too! It feels like the proper family that I didn’t have. It helps to make supported accommodation to feel like home; it feels caring, I feel cared about. It’s nice too to help and to learn to cook.
As for the future, I will stay at the cafe where I am working for now and see how it goes. I am taking it step by step, but I would love to be able to move into a place where I could have Summer to stay overnight. I would love to have joint custody of Summer and to be able to look after her and be with her more. I’d also like to get on well with Daniel’s family – I have been working hard at that.
Rukshi was interviewed by Lucy McGrath, Lead Chaplain YMCA DownsLink Group. Lucy has got to know Rukshi well at chaplaincy meals and one to one sessions. Below is Lucy’s response and feedback to Rukshi:
Thank you so much Rukshi; you have worked so hard to get yourself into a place where you can be a bigger part of Summer’s life – I think all of us at YMCA think you are really tenacious, loving and amazing! Thank you for sharing a little bit of your story with me (us). I think it is so admirable that you have taken responsibility for what happened, and worked so hard to change things and to get yourself into a position where you can be a really big part of Summer’s life.
You have gone from being unemployed to getting permanent work, you found out about playgroups and started taking Summer along (that takes courage!), you have found out about and worked hard at mediation. You have shown yourself to be so reliable…do you know how impressive you are?
Well done Rukshi; we will support you every step of the way to moving on into independence and being able to care for your daughter on a regular basis. Good luck!