22nd April 2012 was the day my life changed forever.
My beloved husband of nine years at the age of 34, went out to work and tragically died. We had two sons aged six and eight at the time. Our family was completely broken, my kids were devastated and I was left feeling afraid and alone.
I am originally from Pakistan and I moved to Belfast when I married my husband. He was a business owner and worked very hard to provide for myself and our children. My husband took care of everything and I was happy as a stay at home mum looking after the children. I had never worked, so had no real skills that I thought mattered.
So when my husband died suddenly, you can imagine how afraid I was. My family were all in Pakistan, I felt so lonely and I had a sense of hopelessness. I was afraid for myself and my kids of going hungry, becoming homeless and for our future. The following weeks were hell. I was in such a dark place and and could see no way out of this despair. I was grieving so much for my husband and my children were grieving for their father who they absolutely adored.
I knew Chara to say hello to as our two boys were in the same class at school. When Chara found out about my husband, her and one of the other mums at the school, Alison, reached out to support me at this time. Chara told me about GLOW and suggested I came on the programme to meet other women and see how it could help me move forward with my life.
At this point, when I began the GLOW programme I remembered hearing other women’s stories and my heart went out to them. I thought there is so much hurt and brokenness, we need to support one another. I suddenly began to feel not so alone. I knew I had support.
As my husband was the one that handled the finances and paid the bills, I didn’t;t even know where to begin. This is when I started to receive more support from Chara and GLOW. I had no income and I remember one of the lowest points was when my son was crying to my friend saying ‘Mummy has no money to feed us today’. I knew I had to take control of my situation, that there was no one else who was going to look after and provide for my children, only me.
I asked Chara to help me with my benefits as I had no clue where to begin. We contacted Tax Credits and and they asked me for my National Insurance number. I didn’t even know what that was. I had to start from the basics. My husband and children were British citizens but I wasn’t. Chara supported me through this time and I began to get up on my feet.
The GLOW programme was helping to build confidence and self-esteem within me. I knew I wanted my children to have the best life possible and my husband would have wanted the same, so I knew that staying on benefits wasn’t an option. However, I had never worked a day in my life and didn’t know what I could do for work, especially with two young sons to look after.
One day Chara asked me what I was good at and I said threading eyebrows, so she encouraged me to start with that. So with one small spool of thread that I found in my sewing kit, I began to thread eyebrows for a small fee from my living room.
That was years ago now and today I have a separate studio in my home. I have set up my own business. I have been able to pay for over 11 training courses to learn new skills for my beauty business such as brows, lashes, nails, make-up, spray tan and so much more. I have been able to afford to visit my family in Pakistan three times. I have bought my own car and have refurbished my whole house.
I am so proud of myself and feel so much more confident and happy that I am providing for my children. My sons have said they have a happy mummy now and my parents and close friends are so proud of how far I’ve come.
My business is growing and I’m loving what I do. I tell people all the time, ‘Don’t give up, follow your dream and even if you fall down, get back up and aim towards your destiny’.
When I was asked what I think my life would have been like had I not taken part in GLOW I said ‘I don’t want to even imagine it!’.
GLOW saved my life. Being part of a group who support one another and where staff go that extra mile to hep in whatever way they can, I can’t thank them enough and my children thank them too.