A few months ago, a teacher noticed my daughter had a huge bruise on her arm. She looked a little closer and found the bruises stretched from her shoulders to her elbows, and from her thighs to her knees, like someone had coloured her in with a purple felt tip pen. When the teacher spotted red bumps and puss-filled blisters on her hands too, she called social services and told them she suspected abuse at home.
If the school had asked me, I would’ve told them all my children were covered in bruises and bites. I was too, because since I’d left my abusive husband, we’d been sleeping on the concrete floor of our new flat. We had no sofas, no carpet, and no beds – and I had no money to buy any. My Universal Credit was taking so long to come through that I didn’t know when I’d have money again.
Every night, my children tossed and turned until daybreak, unable to sleep because of the pain in their sides. They’d go to school with swollen eyes and head straight to the library, where they’d lie down on the sofas and sleep for an hour before class.
I thought our luck had changed one day when someone offered me a bed they didn’t need anymore. I didn’t ask questions and I didn’t care that it was second-hand, I was just relieved my children could sleep in a bed again. But the next morning, we woke up with fiery lumps all over us. Bed bugs had been biting us all night, and it was so bad that two of my children ended up on antibiotics.
Pretty quickly, social services came to interview my kids. I was distraught so I confided in a close friend, and it was her who told me to phone a local organisation called NZF.
NZF came to my rescue. They believed me when I explained where the bruises and bites had come from, and they immediately got in touch with the social worker and told her they were supporting me.
They felt the best way to help us was by getting the beds and furniture we needed, so they could deal with the concern around my children’s safety. They bought a bunk bed for my youngest ones, and two single beds for me and my oldest, complete with mattresses, pillows, and duvets. They gave us sofas too, so we could sit on something other than the concrete floor.
On top of buying us furniture, NZF agreed to give me vouchers until my Universal Credit came through, so I’d have money to buy clothes and food. It meant a lot that I could take the children to go shopping for new clothes. I hadn’t done that in so long, and it made me feel like I was providing for them again.
I’m not sure what would’ve happened to my family if NZF hadn’t stepped in. I try not to think about it, but the truth is: we probably wouldn’t be together.
It’s hard to believe a few beds transformed our lives. For the first time in months, we slept through the entire night. Everything changed. We’re all in a much better place mentally and physically, and we seem to be smiling a lot more. The children are flourishing in school now and my oldest is on track to get into college!
Over time, the bites and bruises faded, and so did the memories of that difficult time in our life. Thanks to NZF, our home isn’t a place we associate with pain and hunger anymore. My children have a promising future ahead of them, and I have faith that things will only get better and better.
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This post is based on a true story.