Behind the Scenes: Interview with community leader Mary

Interviewer: Lisa, volunteer at SLRA; Interviewee: Marry

Mary is an active member of our women’s group and joined our 4-Week Community Organising Course in February facilitated by CitizensUk. I interviewed Marry on the phone about her motivation to participate in the course, the impact the course had, and her hopes for the future.

What is/was your motivation to join the community organizing course? 

“My motivation is to see like that we’re going the right path. Like – because if we need help, we know where to go to.”  

What do you like about it? 

“The course was very good and enlightened me about so many things that I didn’t know before. They explained things in a good way and it increased my confidence to speak to other people.”  

What have you learnt? Can you give me an example? 

“We talked about how we can – in regards – how I can phrase it; how we can build confidence, for example. We talked about so many things. It is difficult to pick something specific.” 

Was there a session in particular that you liked/enjoyed the most?  

“I took many notes in the book so that I do not forget. But it is in the other room and I do not want to wake up my children. I think – what I can remember – I think in the last session, we talked about how we can empower people in terms of how they can come together in a group and campaign. I like that.” 

I think from what I have heard. You talked about different campaigns you can get involved in the last session, right?  

“We talked about the campaign on ‘No Recourse to Public Fund’ and another one about one family one house. We discussed these.” 

Is there a particular topic that is important? 

“I would say the campaign about ‘No Recourse to Public Fund’ is really important to me because if you are giving something, but you do not have access to anything. And this is a law. And this is like – they deprive you of so many things. It is really depressing because sometimes you want to do something for yourself or for your children. And you are saving but because you do not have access to public funds, you can’t do this or that because you have to pay for other things that other people get support with. This alone can affect your mental health. It makes you feel alone if you are in that situation. And I was in that situation so I know how it feels because when you are in that, there are so many things that you can’t do. They might tell you that you are not entitled to this or that. If this can change, I think it would make a lot of differences to families.” 

And do you think the course empowered you to do something around NRPF or become part of these campaigns?  

“It has helped me a lot and taught me how to campaign. Sometimes you do not know where to campaign, what is already going on, and where information is. I use myself as an example. I did not know much about it. But if you are part of the group, it enlightens you and teaches you things that you did not know before like this is what you can do or this is what you should know. It is great that people organize such groups that there is room for this exchange and for the community.” 

What are your next steps? What do you hope for the future? How do you imagine this kind of work continuing?  

“Yeah. I do not know honestly about the next steps. But we hope for good things and we fight for justice. So, we are ready that our voices are going to be heard by them. We are coming together as a group, even if it is from time to time a different group. There are so many other groups in London and coming together with these other groups – we become stronger! And that is when I can see that there is a future in this. Like even though I got my status, I still need to help those people that need it. I want to join some other groups and attend these sessions because this will make the group stronger.”  

Big thank you to Mary to agree to give these insights and to honestly share her opinion!