Meet the shop worker from Kosovo who is an example of ‘positive immigration’
PUBLISHED: 16:44 23 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:42 26 March 2020
As part of a series about Home-Start in Suffolk, which supports parents facing challenging circumstances, ANDREW PAPWORTH spoke to some of those the charity has helped. Here, Myrvete describes the support she received after arriving from Kosovo with no English.
When 33-year-old Myrvete arrived in Felixstowe a decade ago, she knew no-one, spoke no English and was scared to even go outside.
But today she is a happy and devoted mum who has a good long-term job, proudly supports her family, goes out every day and socialises with other parents.
The Albanian national’s dramatic transformation from someone who suffered extreme isolation and loneliness has not been quick, and certainly hasn’t been easy.
A lot of it, Myrvete says, is down to the support of Home-Start in Suffolk, a charity which supports parents and their children in a variety of challenging circumstances.
But Home-Start volunteers who have been visiting Myrvete for several years put her success down to her quiet determination to do the best for her family.
To them, she is an example of “positive immigration” - someone prepared to go out of her comfort zone and come to Britain in pursuit of a better life, making a contribution to Suffolk in spite of huge challenges.
‘I would just stay indoors. I was very shy’
One might think moving to a new country is like moving house, only with a plane journey instead of a simple removal lorry.
For Myrvete, the reality was anything but.
Then aged 23, she decided to move to the Suffolk coast in August 2009 from Kosovo to be with her husband Elmi.
The pair had been married since 2007 but were unable to see much of each other, because Elmi worked in the UK.
“I was excited when I came here,” said Myrvete, who had tried learning English before her arrival but found it difficult to master.
“When I came here, I thought I was going to have a better life than in my country.
“However I didn’t have any family here. My husband was working all the time.
“I didn’t speak any English. If I went into town and people would say hello, I didn’t know how to reply to them.
“My husband was working all day, so I would just stay indoors. I was very shy. I didn’t have any contact with anyone.”
Today it is much easier to stay in touch with people across the globe, with WhatsApp, Skype and Messenger allowing easy and free text and video chat.
In 2009, the high cost of an international phone call meant Myrvete only talked with her family once a month.
Combined with the language barrier and Myrvete’s nervousness about going outside, she would often feel lonely.
The condition of the first flat she and Elmi lived in, which she describes as small, dark and damp, added to her feelings of depression.
Even watching television wasn’t an option, because of Myrvete’s lack of English at the time.
‘Please help me’
When Myrvete became pregnant with her daughter, Orlina, she felt better - but after being born five weeks early, their little girl didn’t grow much at first and didn’t breastfeed very well.
When Orlina was 15 months old, Myrvete was referred to Home-Start by a health visitor.
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Volunteers for the charity said they immediately “could clearly see her isolation through lack of language and contact” - with Myrvete saying to them straight away: “Please help me.”
They put in place weekly visits to give Myrvete much-needed company and help with her English, which volunteers described as almost like “little language lessons”.
Gradually, things started to improve as Myrvete grew in confidence and learned new words each week, with simple sayings such as “thank you”, “sorry” and “excuse me” making all the difference to her life.
She and her Home-Start visitor would also frequently go out somewhere in Felixstowe during their visits, further boosting Myrvete’s confidence.
“They helped me so much,” she said of the charity.
“They helped me feel more comfortable with people. They helped me understand what people meant.”
Of her regular Home-Start visitor, she said: “I’m very glad I met her. I don’t consider her just a friend - she’s part of my family.”
Moving into a more modern flat near Felixstowe seafront in September 2011 also helped, with Myrvete taking obvious pride in making it feel like home.
And her growing confidence and language skills led to her getting a job at a convenience store near to her home, something that would have been unthinkable only a few years before.
She said having a job, as well as going into Felixstowe every day, means “I feel more independent in myself”, adding: “I don’t like to sit at home. Having a job gives me a chance to do something outside of the house.”
Despite the obvious positive changes in her life, Myrvete says she still hears people who say they “hate immigration”.
Asked how she feels about hearing comments like that, she said: “I feel very upset.
“They think that we have just come here to find a nice place to live and they’re thinking that they have more money than English people.
“But we’re working, working all the time. It’s not like we’re enjoying holidays all the time. It’s not like I have lots of money.”
Her Home-Start supporters say Myrvete’s story is an example of “positive immigration”, because she has worked hard to be part of British society, despite challenges - and makes a strong contribution.
It is a contribution Myrvete intends to go on making in the years ahead.
“My ideal is to continue to have a nice job and save some money to buy a house here,” she said, adding that she puts aside a £1 coin every day to save for future.
She says she has learned that: “If you want something, you sometimes have to keep going when things are not good for you.
“Before I was very shy, but now I feel free. Life is completely different now.”
About Home-Start in Suffolk
Home-Start in Suffolk aids parents struggling with a range of challenges, so children enjoy the best start in life.
It helped 412 families between April 2018 and April 2019, a rise of 90 on the previous year.
A key part of its service are its home visitors, who visit families to provide invaluable support and a listening ear, although that is currently being adapted because of the coronavirus crisis.
It believes supporting families at the very start of a child’s life is the “best opportunity to break the cycle of adversity”.
Its patrons include author Anthony Horowitz, who has a home in Suffolk, and Maple Farm Kelsale owner Miranda Kendall.