Updated: Jul 29
When Elira* and her family first arrived in the UK, they encountered many barriers to finding work and struggled to cover even basic expenses. She shares her story and explains how, with the support of Money A+E and the Shpresa Programme, she was able to rebuild her finances and her mental health - and rekindle her dream of a teaching career.
'We were living in Italy before coming here, my husband lost his job, as the economic situation there has been paralyzed for the last few years and I hadn’t been able to find a job in a long time. In these circumstances we decided to immigrate to the UK, we didn’t have any savings and our English was very poor. We felt just lost and without hope.
At first it was very difficult for us to find information and the only thing we knew was to try hard to find a job, because of our poor knowledge of English and lack of understanding of the systems here in the UK, lack of network and many other barriers living in a new country often brings. We had had a really difficult time settling in Italy and we thought we would find it easier second time around. But this was not the case, everything was different and there were so many rules and regulations that we were not familiar with.
We felt very stressed, isolated, confused...Our mental health was affected greatly by the hopeless situation we were going through.
We felt very stressed, isolated, confused and very let down by people who offered to help. Our mental health was affected greatly by the hopeless situation we were going through. Our son didn’t want to go out or to do anything, he isolated himself in his room and didn’t want to stay in the UK anymore.
At that time I was earning £123/week, our situation was very difficult and we could not provide for food either.
My husband did find several part-time jobs on and off, and just before the lockdown I did find a part-time job as a cleaner and my husband was unemployed. We pay £750/month for the rent of the house and £99 for the electricity. At that time I was earning £123/week, our situation was very difficult and we could not provide for food either. It was impossible for us to apply for benefits for all the reasons mentioned above.
I wrote to the Shpresa Programme on Facebook initially and they immediately helped my family with food and £40/week. I am taking English courses and my son is taking Albanian language classes. I have joined the information talks from people that have overcome barriers that are the same as mine now and have made it, and this has helped me greatly.
Now I am part of Shpresa’s volunteers and I feel like I belong somewhere, I have a door to always knock for help and I can offer my help too. I want to be able to apply my role as a teacher here in the UK and I am fully qualified back home, Shpresa has helped me to dream and is helping me to make these dreams a reality.
Things are different now, we are not struggling anymore with monthly expenses and I’m really enjoying being part of the volunteers...giving my contribution.
I didn’t have any information regarding the benefits my family was entitled to. Shpresa helped me with information and step by step helped me together with Money A+E to apply for Universal Credit. We had no income while we were waiting. Money A+E helped my family with a grant of £200 so that we could provide for food until the first payment of Universal Credit (06/05/2020). We are entitled to £1,621/month for Universal Credit.
Shpresa and Money A+E’s combination of culture and expertise, understanding of the issues faced by us, empathy and offering an all-round service had a great impact on my family.
Things are different now, we are not struggling anymore with monthly expenses and I’m really enjoying being part of the volunteers, exchanging personal and professional experiences with other volunteers and giving my contribution. Also my son is very happy at the Albanian classes, as he could improve his Albanian language and make new friends during lockdown.
Me and my husband are looking for jobs and we are looking forward to settling in here. I am working hard to get my diploma equivalent here and I would like to build a teaching career.
To everyone who feels lost I would advise to ask for help, there is always a solution and an open door for them.'
*Name has been changed
About the Project
The Shpresa Programme promotes the integration with dignity of the Albanian Speaking Community in the UK.
Money A+E has worked in partnership with the Shpresa Programme throughout the Covid-19 crisis to provide debt, benefits and money advice to the Albanian Speaking Community. This is integrated with other forms of support provided by Shpresa including with immigration, employment and English language, in a holistic approach that supports personal transformation and tackles multiple social welfare issues.
This is one of many partnerships in which Money A+E work with other community-led agencies to address money problems at the same time as other connected issues such as mental health, language barriers, employment and many more.