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Hilda’s story: refugee care gave me new start

Refugee Hilda Marinda and her familyThe Portsmouth NewsWhen her Zimbabwean home was set on fire with her family inside, young mother Hilda Marinda fled to the UK in fear of her life – but with the Red Cross’ help she is now looking to a brighter future.

Hilda’s epic journey began one evening in August 2004 when a Zanu PF hit squad called at her house demanding to speak to her husband Otis – an activist with the opposing MDC party. When Hilda claimed she didn't know where he was, they petrol-bombed her house while her two young children Dylan and Lynn slept inside.

She recalled: 'It was the most terrifying experience of my life. The children still can't sleep with the lights off now.”

Red Cross support

Hilda managed to escape with her husband and children through a window and drove across the border to neighbouring Botswana. Her husband remained in Africa, but friends loaned the rest of the family enough money to catch a plane to England, where they sought asylum on landing at Heathrow.

As a political refugee with two young children and few people to turn to for help, things looked bleak for Hilda until she found the Red Cross refugee orientation project in Portsmouth. Looking back, she now thinks her family would probably have been returned to Zimbabwe if it weren’t for the charity’s help.

And for a long time, she had no idea what had happened to her husband. She said: “It was just so hard. I kept telling the children he was fine but I didn't know if he was even alive.”

New start

However, things have been looking up recently. With help from the Red Cross’ tracing and message service, she recently managed to contact Otis. And after six years in the UK as an asylum seeker, Hilda has been granted refugee status.

Now settled in Portsmouth with her children, she has a stable full-time job as an administrator for the local city council and regularly volunteers for the Red Cross.

George Brown, refugee services co-ordinator, said: “Hilda is a remarkable lady – she is a real success. So often, we hear negative things about asylum seekers but the truth is many of these people have had their lives torn apart and only want to come here to escape persecution, work hard and contribute to society.”

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