Arsenal’s partnership with Freedom from Torture isn’t all about football, because The Arsenal Foundation has also helped to fund the charity’s Peer Support Network, which helps rehabilitate survivors of torture. Rion, from Sierra Leone, is a regular at the sessions.
“I fled torture and conflict in my home country and have been in the UK since 2005. When my GP found out I had been tortured I was referred to Freedom from Torture. When I first arrived I experienced a lot of challenges. If anyone spoke English too fast I couldn’t understand them. I felt lonely, I was confused and didn’t know how things worked here. But my first session at Freedom from Torture was a very good experience. I was assessed by a very kind therapist called Ilana. She saw me as a person and not just a survivor of torture. She helped me express myself and it gave me hope.
“The hardest part was trying to find a home. The local council didn’t explain things very well and they would talk to you like you were a trouble-maker. It was hard to cope with.
“There are restrictions on what I can and can’t do in this country because I am an asylum-seeker, but I work as a cleaner at a hospital. I enjoy my work and it keeps me busy. I also love looking after my children. But if I had my way I would also love to study. Back home I wasn’t able to finish my education. The troubles started and I had to focus on staying alive and finding a better life.
“When I arrived here I didn’t want to talk about the things that happened to me, but now I have made lots of friends through Freedom from Torture. I go to support groups and meet people who have been through the same things as me. Every day it gets better.
“When I was on the waiting list for therapy I was referred to the Peer Support Network. Everyone there was very supportive and friendly. We have a session once a fortnight and I look forward to going. It makes me happy. It keeps me busy and it makes me feel like I have people to rely on, but it’s also a place where I can get information so I can be independent.
“The Peer Support Network has given me lots of aspirations for the future. My dream is to become a nursing assistant. I’m the kind of person that likes to help others. That is my focus.
Freedom from Torture has had a big impact on my life. They have helped me with everything from finding solicitors to dealing with the council. They gave me my confidence again and now I’m ready to give back in any way I can. I want to be a good example for others.
I have met so many lovely people here. It’s like a home, and they are my family.”
For more info visit freedomfromtorture.org
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