Tracy, a member of the survivor activism network, Survivors Speak OUT, and member of Write to Life, shares how she used her past experience of torture to help her forge a new career in her new home, the UK.
Which one do I call my home? Many years ago I was rejected by the country where I lived freely, my birth rights were taken, I was stripped to nothing. Which Nationality am I? I am neither.
I came to the UK seeking protection, but to get that protection was not easy; every part of my experience was a lesson or a training. Lessons differ, some are easy, some are tough. My training was tough, like the training of a front line soldier. I had to endure every step till I became who I am today. I am not all that great, but the most important thing is that I am alive, a mother and I can help other people.
I can't change what happened in my past but I can shape today for the future. I was frustrated and humiliated in the past I came from; little did I know that I was being made strong to face challenges in a country I would now call my home. My experience gave me practical lessons, and Write to life at Freedom from Torture has empowered me with therapeutic writing. Whilst I was writing for rehabilitation, I learnt how to write good English and how to express things, to regain what was lost in the past. Most of the time I was writing about my painful experience, but I turned that painful experience to a useful purpose, by writing down what happened to me.
My training was tough, like the training of a front line soldier. I had to endure every step till I become who I am today. I am not all that great, but the most important thing is that I am alive, a mother and I can help other people.
I gained the courage to fight horrible memories, built resilience and determination to go back to university to study and become a useful person, to contribute to the economy of the country which is now my home by being a tax payer. I changed career, from electrical engineer to health and social welfare practitioner. This too was not easy, but to me it came more easily because I had the practical, if painful, experience.
In due course, I was invited to present a paper at a conference on public health. Sitting among professionals, I was able to engage so well that they thought I already had a certificate or diploma in public health. They did know that I was not yet ‘qualified’; I was just an expert by having lived painful experience. I even wrote a public health project proposal about young and middle-aged ethnic minority women having diabetes type 2 and cardiovascular disease. In this project, I mainly focused on asylum seekers and refugees simply because I was drawing from my own experience. I also used a bit of theory from my university module and more theory from the course book written by Professor Michael Mamort.
In my conference presentation, I referred a lot to the book, ‘The Health Gap’ by Professor Michael Mamort. I had no idea until after my presentation that the author was sitting next to me! The Harrington public health team, the dieticians and Professor Mamort were surprised when I told them that I got my knowledge and understanding from my terrible past experiences. I told them that some positive things can come out of horrible things. I also told them I am going to stop at nothing. I am going on to further studies in health and wellbeing so that I can contribute more and help my fellow survivors.
The world is not mine, I cannot have everything. I should be thankful for what I am: a refugee, a survivor and able to walk and live freely without persecution. Forgive me when I whinge about my painful past, help me to focus and look forward, to enjoy my home in a beautiful country, the UK.
Survivors Speak OUT (SSO) is a torture survivor-led activist network of former clients at Freedom from Torture, which campaigns against the use of torture, speaks out about its impact and supports survivors' rights.
Tracy is also a member of our Write to Life creative writing group. Members of the group are referred by their clinician, but they can stay after their treatment has ended. Often Write to Life becomes a bridge between Freedom from Torture and a new life in the world.