Walaa’s story

“My dream is to become an electronics engineer. My sister Wigdan’s dream is to become a doctor. My sister Nasma’s dream is to become a childcare [worker]. My sister Noorhan’s dream is to become a dentist. My sister Wedad’s dream is for her to recover and become in the best condition and good health so that she can learn the English language fluently.” – Walaa (24)

Walaa (24) and her father Hassan (56) contacted Together Now at the end of August 2023. They asked for support with flight tickets for Amina (47), Hassan’s first wife and Walaa’s mother, and Wedad (31), Walaa’s eldest sister.

Wigdan (21), Nasma (16) and Noorhan (12) were eagerly awaiting their mother and sister to join them in Bradford too.

Walaa shares the sisters’ nicknames: “My sister Wedad likes to be called Wedoo. And I like them to call me Waloosh. My sister Wigdan likes to be called Jojo. My sister Nasma likes to be called Nasoma. As for my sister Noorhan, [she] likes to be called Noor.”

Walaa explains how the family coped while they were separated: “My sisters and I supported each other by helping each other in everything. We tell my mother and sister the details of our day, what we did every day.”

 She then briefly explains a part of her family’s story:

My father was married to two wives. My mother is the first wife. And Aunt E is his second wife – she has two children.

Because of the law of the country only one wife can come here, and my mother was in a very difficult situation, because she had to choose either to allow us to go with my stepmother and for her to stay with my disabled sister, or to come with us and for her to leave my disabled sister alone there.

She allowed us to go with my stepmother because my stepmother promised my mother that she would take care of us like her own children. But as soon as we arrived in Britain, my stepmother was causing problems and treating us badly. We had not spent a year with her until the problems became bigger, so my father decided to divorce her. We separated from them and lived with my father in a house far away from them. We applied to be reunited with my mother and sister in 2020, but the application was rejected. Then we resumed the application and it took a long time until finally we were reunited in September 2023.

When Walaa first contacted Together Now in late August, flights from Port Sudan were not fully operational yet. It was especially difficult to arrange travel because different countries had imposed limitations on the duration of Sudanese nationals in transit. These changes were implemented quickly – it was challenging to get the most up-to-date information.

At first, Together Now tried to coordinate flights with our partner organisation Miles4Migrants. This meant that the family would arrange travel to a neighbouring country on their own, while Miles4Migrants would provide flights onward to the UK. However, all these options fell through eventually because of the transit limitations.

The mounting living expenses in Port Sudan were starting to become a huge burden for the family. Walaa said: “We can wait [for the flight] it’s no problem but I hope not for long, because they are staying in a rented house which is cost so much.” They were paying 30,000 SDG (around £40) for a day’s rent.

At the time, Together Now were running low on funding for direct casework support. The only way Together Now could support the family while trying to find a way to book very expensive flights was to offer an emergency grant to cover some of the family’s accommodation costs in Port Sudan.

Luckily, just a few days later, Together Now received a grant for flights for Sudanese families. When the flight tickets were finally booked for the end of September, Walaa said: I thank you very much from the bottom of my heart, and I greatly appreciate your effort with us. You helped us without saying anything or dictated thanks a lot. Please extend my thanks and gratitude to your colleagues and all those who worked hard to help us.❤️

Together Now signposted the family to another organisation to help with the costs that were being accumulated during the family reunification process. Together Now also helped with offering advice on how to get the ID cards when the family arrived and then signposted them to a local organisation to support them with health and welfare related applications.

When the caseworker checked in with the family after their reunification, Walaa responded: “My young sister Noorhan used to cry every night because she was away from my mother, but now she is so happy. She slept in her mother’s bed for a week ❤️ Alhamdo lillah, we are very well now we feel safe and happy with my mother and father.”

This is how Walaa describes the family life in Bradford a couple of months after the reunification:

Home for us is Britain because it provides us with security, peace, and basic human necessities, like food, medicine, and education.

In my free time, I like to crochet and watch TV. Wigdan likes to play PUBG with her cousins. Nasma likes to draw. She has painted several paintings and hung some of them in the leaving room. Noorhan likes to play with her friends. Wedad likes to watch TV. We love watching Disney movies together.

I always argue with Wigdan when we are going out, but I did not find the thing I was looking for to wear. We start arguing, and in the end, I find it in my bag, and we start laughing. As for Nasma and Noorhan, they always argue about who will turn off the light at bedtime.

I am the best at cooking [savory dishes]. The best thing the family loves [that I make] is a tray of pasta in the oven. Wigdan is the best at cooking sweets. The best thing the family loves is basbousa.

This family were able to travel thanks to funding from Choose Love in response to the urgent need for Sudanese families to leave the conflict.