When did you first come into contact with SIS?
1998 I arrived in the UK with my three children aged 14, 6 and 7 months. I was stopped by Immigration because the Portuguese ID card I was using was not genuine. Social Services were called because of the children, but I could not speak English, and so I could not explain my situation. Social Services contacted SIS, and SIS sent Julia to interpret.
What difference did it make, to have an interpreter?
I was able to explain my situation. I left Portugal to escape the children’s father, who was violent towards me. I had tried to get the police to help me, but they were not interested. Immigration wanted to deport me. SIS referred me to a solicitor, Jen.
With Julia’s help, I was able to tell my story to my solicitor:
I was born in Sao Tome, in Africa. When I was two, a Portuguese family took me to Portugal. They said that they would adopt me, but they just treated me as an unpaid servant. When I left their home at 18, I had no papers. The children were born in Portugal and had ID cards, but I was not able to get one for myself, so I obtained a fake one.
My solicitor explained everything to Immigration, and eventually they allowed me to stay, because my children were EU citizens. I later became a British citizen.
Was there another time when SIS’s involvement made a big difference?
In 2003, I was expecting a baby. I went to the hospital with my eldest daughter, Lillian. I was in terrible pain, and was pushing, but when Lillian called the midwife, she said that I was not in labour, and she refused to examine me. Luckily, SIS had recently set up the 24 hour emergency service. Lillian saw the telephone number on a poster and she phoned SIS. Arran sent Julia to the hospital. I explained to Julia what was happening, and Julia was able to get the midwife to examine me. I was rushed for an emergency caesarean. Without the interpreter’s help, I think my baby, Matthew, might not have survived. I feel that the SIS emergency service saved my son’s life, and possibly mine too.
Was there a time when you felt you no longer needed an interpreter?
Yes, when I had been here about 7 years, I felt able speak English well enough to cope independently with day to day issues.
Have you used SIS’s services more recently?
Yes, in 2010, I started working at the hospital as a housekeeper. Later, I was promoted to Care Assistant, working on Level 12,13 and 14. After I reported a colleague for using a dangerous product in the birthing pool, I faced lots of problems. I had an accident at work and was off sick for a while. When I tried to return to work, I was sent to a different department each day, as a housekeeper again, and asked to do things which I could not do, as a result of the accident. My union representative was not able to help me. I contacted SIS for help. By this time, SIS was offering a bi-lingual advocacy service. I explained my problem to Julia, and she acted as my advocate in two meetings at the hospital. With Julia’s help, I was able to argue my case, and I was offered a proper phased return to work, on Level 14. I feel that I am now respected, and can enjoy my job again.