‘Direct provision takes away your ability to dream’

New to the Parish: Precious Matumba came to Ireland from Zimbabwe in 2018

When Precious Matumba arrived in Ireland from Zimbabwe as an international protection applicant in 2018 with her two sons, she had no proof they were her children.

At the time, they were seven and eight years old.

DNA tests were organised to show they were indeed her children.

The family of three was placed in Mosney Direct Provision Centre in Co Meath, and stayed for about two years.

READ MORE

“I think I got enough [support], but the direct provision system, it’s hard enough on its own and there’s limited opportunities for everything really. But I think I was supported by the social workers that I came into contact with,” Matumba says.

While in the direct provision centre, Matumba says, she received support that, at the time, she did not even realise she needed.

“They linked me in with support and with Women’s Aid and the psychotherapy services, adult mental health services and the whole works,” she says.

“At that point I suppose is when I can say I started living and actually making sense of who I am or who I was at that point, and that’s just stayed with me to this day, I was determined to go out and do the same thing for somebody that those social workers have done for me.”

But it was not always easy, having two young children, coming from a traumatic past and going into direct provision, which Matumba describes as also being traumatic.

“It takes away your ability to dream. I mean, at that point everywhere you’re looking it’s a bleak kind of scenario where you can’t think of anything that you can actually do,” she says.

Matumba had no access to education, no access to most social services, was surviving on less than €40 a week, and could not work because she was waiting for her work permit to come through.

She was still limited in what she could do, because her degrees were in sociology and gender and personal education, but she could not work in education in Ireland.

“There was really nothing I could do except go into care or, all these manual kinds of jobs of which I had injuries that I acquired that it kind of incapacitated me. I had a physical handicap from the trauma in my past so I couldn’t do anything that needed me to be lifting stuff,” Matumba says.

Then she found out from a social worker, named Emma, that she could apply for a sanctuary scholarship to do a master’s in social work with University College Dublin, which is one of the partners of the Dublin Learning City Festival.

“I was really hesitant to do it, and was like even if I got the place [in the course], I’m still not going to get the scholarship, and she was like no, just apply – the worst they could do is just say no. At that point, no didn’t seem like it was going to cost me further,” Matumba says.

However, she did her application for both the course and scholarship and was accepted to both.

It was a full-time course for two years, and Matumba says that without the support of those who helped her along the way, including Dublin Learning City and her lecturers, she may not have gotten through it.

“They all knew I was in direct provision, and everybody was just very supportive of those days when sometimes you don’t have a bus fare, really, my lecturers were even willing to give me money from their own pockets for me to get to college . . . it was just amazing looking back at it now,” she says.

Matumba left direct provision and was “thrown in the deep end”, but managed to get accommodation, with help from the Irish Refugee Council in Dundalk, Co Louth, and was faced with the reality of life in Ireland, having been in the “sheltered space” of Mosney for numerous years.

“Here comes trouble now, all the supports now they’ve left, there’s no wraparound supports, so I come here and I have no idea how to handle the electric, the bills and no idea what to do with the gas, how to switch on the radiators, I had no idea how to do anything,” she says.

‘In Ireland I have been treated with so much kindness and it’s made me feel at home’

“It was Covid times as well, because that was 2020-21, when I came here. No one is talking to anybody; everyone is locked in their house, and I remember I was stuck in a cold house for about a week. I had to heat water on the stove top for the kids to shower and everything, because nobody was telling me anything.

“Then the only thing I could do was ring the social worker again, Emma. I’m like Emma, I’m stuck. I don’t know how to do anything in this house. I don’t know what to do. So it’s supposed to be normal to everybody else, but this was really not normal for me because I didn’t know what to do,” Matumba says.

So Emma came over, and helped her figure it out. She helped Matumba join local Facebook groups to help her integrate into the society and helped her get school places for her children, and engaged with afterschool clubs for the children too.

“I suppose that’s one thing about the Irish. [They are] very kind people and it’s just really helped us to integrate well in the society and the community here,” Matumba says.

Matumba now works with the child and family agency, Tusla, as a social worker, and has done for the past two years, helping others who are currently in a similar situation to where she was just a few years ago.

“When you’re coming from a kind of like marginalised group, you’re always suspicious of people and things like that. But I would say they’re very accepting. They are very kind, in Ireland I have been treated with so much kindness and it’s made me feel at home,” Matumba says.

“It’s safe, there is that safety there, I don’t have to be constantly looking over my shoulder thinking some kind of harm is going to come to me or my children – and they have made friends, they have been thriving. In school they’ve made great friendships.

“It’s nice to just watch them be kids enjoying a normal kind of childhood. It’s just been a blessing, really. I’d say we have been treated with the utmost kindness. That stands out,” she says, “it just feels like home”.

Matumba received her Irish citizenship two days before she spoke to The Irish Times.

Dublin Learning City Festival, is taking place from 15th to 17th April in venues across Dublin. Hosting a variety of in-person and online events, Dublin Learning City Festival highlights educational opportunities available for everyone across Dublin with fun and diverse events. Find out what’s on: www.dublinlearningcity.ie.

We would like to hear from people who have moved to Ireland in the past 10 years. To get involved, email newtotheparish@irishtimes.com or tweet @newtotheparish