Jade volunteers for the Refugee Council and takes part in Freedom From Torture’s Write to Life Group. Here, she shares her latest reflections on her life as a refugee in the UK.
I am always on the move around London. On weekdays I am on the buses to and from Clapham Junction five days a week. I really love my job at the Refugee Council, where I have been volunteering for the last ten years. I usually leave my house at 6:45am, Monday to Friday, after I have bathed, so that I can look smart.
So I get on the bus from Marcilly Road on St. John’s Hill to Clapham Junction. I take another bus to Clapham Common, then on to Stockwell, Oval, Elephant and Castle, Aldgate and finally to Mile End. When I first arrived in London, I thought Mile End was the end of the journey. But the bus goes on to Bow Church and then to Stratford. There I hop on the last one to Stratford Broadway.
On the Saturday and Sunday, I am back on the buses but, this time, I am looking for my children; hoping that someone might have rescued them from their captors as I was helped from mine. I know it is a fruitless search but I can’t just give up even if I wanted to.
Sometimes, I take a bus to Trafalgar Square. I look out of the window to see if I can see a familiar face, thinking of my children, but I am always disappointed when I go home empty handed. The following weekend I might go to a different location like Shoreditch, Fulham, Peckham or Woolwich.
On the bus, my thoughts often return to past journeys in my native country. There, generally, we did not dress smartly to travel. We kept our best dress or suit for our destination because we shared our buses with all sorts of animals – goats, sheep or chickens.
Chickens were placed in the luggage rack and, as you know, a chicken will never ask you to move when it wants to poo so they would just mess anywhere. The owner never apologised because he was usually on top of the bus checking on his other chickens, a goat, sheep or whatever else he was taking to market. They had more say than the other passengers on the bus because they had bribed the bus driver or the conductor. We had to shut up or get off with no refund and no other transport until the next day.
I think I must have dozed off. A lady stepped on my toes as if to say “wakie wakie”. I came out of my lullaby with a start and found myself back in London. As I neared my destination, I pressed the bell. At home, when I wanted to get off the bus, I had to shout at the top of my voice, “I am getting off here!” The driver would continue for another mile or so before letting me out. I did not complain because the same plonker would be driving the next day so I forced myself to smile and learned to beat the conductor and driver at their own game. When I was about a mile a way from my final destination, I would shout “I am getting off here!” and the driver would stop a mile later.
These are my daily and weekly journeys. But these are stages on a longer journey which Freedom from Torture and Refugee Council have helped me to continue.