Artur and Aida are a couple originally from Albania now living in London with three young children. For several years now, they have been involved with ATD Fourth World, a founding member of the APLE (Addressing Poverty with Lived Experience) Collective. ATD Fourth World—All Together in Dignity—is a human rights based anti-poverty organisation, with more than fifty years experience of tackling inequality and promoting social justice in the UK. It supports those who have first-hand experience of deprivation to speak out in order to build a fairer society: a society without poverty, where everyone is valued, can participate fully and realise their potential.
In this guest blog, Artur and Aida explain that the Covid-19 lockdown has caused upheaval in their family and the value of footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to ensure meal vouchers for children in need during the Summer holidays, using his own experiences to trigger change.
Artur has been unable to work. Aida has been taken on at Asda without any contract. But it is the effect on their children which distresses them most.
Suddenly they stopped everything. Our kids had extra learning for maths and English twice a week. They were busy with it. Football, sea cadets. Suddenly our son cannot play football with his friends. Our daughter who has autism had speech and language. Suddenly they stopped everything.
At least our kids had two days a week at school during the lockdown because of our daughter’s autism and because Aida works at Asda. We pushed the school to take all the kids. Going to school takes the energy out of them, and they can learn. When it all started it was scary for us, scary for the kids. Especially as we have a small place, one bedroom divided into two. We don’t have a garden. It’s not good for their mental health to stay at home.
Marcus Rashford’s campaign to ensure meal vouchers for children in need during the Summer holidays was brilliant of him! The reason he started was because of his background and the area he was brought up. He’s a millionaire now, so for him to do that and at his age is quite brilliant. He knows how to help the kids because of where he came from. It’s a fantastic job he’s done. Our childhood was really tough. We know what he means. Here they help you. But in communist Albania they cannot. We have been in a queue for a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread and things like that. We totally understand him.
Years ago, we knew a mum who had three daughters who said it was more expensive when the kids were at home. At the time we did not understand because our eldest was little, but now we do. The food vouchers are helpful for the families. It’s going towards the necessary things for cooking and eating. It’s less stress on the families. They can concentrate on doing other things for their kids and on what they want for their children.
There are very few children who understand when there is not enough money, they don’t understand what’s going on. Not everyone understands when you are struggling. We had our friend, she is “Not Resourced from Public Funds”, they have no help from the government, we were doing what we could for her.
But it’s hard. Sometimes you are crying so hard you cannot speak. You are crying inside, you cannot tell what you are going through. You have no-one to show you how to get help. I was in a hostel and the conditions were terrible, but when I started to complain, they threatened me. ATD took us on holiday to Frimhurst Family House and it was a break and I remember my son, it was Christmas, he was crying, he said I don’t want to go back, I want to stay here.
It’s not easy. Sometimes people get fed up with their lives and being told to shut up. And I know families who are worse off than me, mums where the kids have been taken away. It destroys the family. They threatened to take away my children. You hear the stories, you would not believe it. What about the mums? Sometimes you don’t know how to say it, it is inside you, but you don’t know how to say it. I am grateful Marcus Rashford understood what his mum went through and he knows to speak out. Speaking about hardships is important because it can help others to comprehend which can help lead to change. Our attitude has changed because of the tough times we have lived through.
About the authors
Artur and Aida are raising their three children in London where they are involved with ATD Fourth World and the APLE (Addressing Poverty with Lived Experience) Collective.
To read ATD Fourth World’s “Giving Poverty a Voice” blog: https://atd-uk.org/blog/
and the APLE Collective blog: https://www.aplecollective.com/blog-posts/
* Frimhurst Family House is run by ATD Fourth World, it has a unique history of offering vulnerable families respite stays.