The unique challenges for people who have lived experience

Written by Moud Goba, National Manager at Micro Rainbow

March 15, 2023
5 min read
Art sculpture created by Albert György

This picture is a sculpture created by Albert Gyorgy. For me, this picture is about grief. I really relate to this picture because it is almost the same as trauma. It's something you learn to live with and it's there. It’s a hole that's left. You learn to live and change with it, but it is still there.

So in terms of people working in this sector with lived experience, I think the thing to remember is when we come to work it's because of that experience, it’s because of passion.

I was trained to be a teacher of the deaf  but after I’d been through the asylum system, I wanted to do something about it and wanted to work with refugees. I became so passionate about it. It’s often about passion, activism and the need for change. You have gone through this traumatic and often inhumane process  and you don't want the next person to go through this experience. You want to support others and want to help. You also know where these challenges have come from. You are there, working in that place but that doesn’t mean you’ve got over that trauma. Often people are still dealing with their own trauma.

You’re supporting people who are going through this system that has broken you before and you don't want someone else to be broken and you know exactly the challenges that they are going to go through. That really can be retraumatised. We have to be really careful in work so as not to be retraumatised. It has to be something we are alert to.

Also, boundaries. We have a boundaries policy at Micro Rainbow and that's supposed to help us. I know my boundaries and what I should be doing but the temptation is there because you know exactly what is going to happen. So if someone calls you and they are homeless or they've left their home office accommodation because someone has been abusing them because as an LGBTQI+ person you know exactly how that feels. You know sometimes why they can’t go back there. So where you are supposed to have boundaries you want to go above and beyond. Or when someone has gone through the whole process and some things have been happening then sometimes you have survivor's guilt kicking in especially with politics at the minute and Rwanda. You know what people are going to feel, you know what people are going to experience so you feel guilt. At least I’m ok now, I need to do more for people who are going through this.

While you are working in that space, we are still migrants, some people are still going through the process of family reunification and citizenship, you still have to work with the home office. Sometimes for mothers they’re still trying to reunite with their children and there's still challenges of integrating themselves into their community. I’ve lived in the UK for some time but there are challenges I’m still getting used to.

For many newcomers, we have to understand each other from an intersectional space. Not only are there many things to adapt to, coming from a majority of black people, you now have to understand race and racism. As a woman, issues with gender, then as an LGBTQI person, your sexuality or gender identity.  In the UK, you become ‘the other’.

There are all these challenges but still you have to be present, and bring your whole self to work because you want to be able to do this work to the best of your ability. I think this is why we need to support our colleagues who are people with lived experience a bit more. They need a lot more support because they’re not just turning up to work and giving their expertise of lived experience and wanting to better the conditions for others but they’re still healing and still going through trauma or working through it. They’re still learning and integrating into their new community, understanding the politics, understanding their race and new cultures.