I struggled to get a job and was quickly told to forget pursuing a career in law. I struggled so much and fell into what I can now only describe as a depression. I cried so much. I missed my little boy terribly. I felt so guilty for leaving him in Zimbabwe. I found it difficult to live with strangers and really struggled to settle down. I found work quickly at a nursing agency called “Delta”. I did not know what the work was until my first shift. I arrived at a nursing home and recall being told to toilet the residents. I had no clue, no experience and did not even know what to do. I retched at the sight of a resident’s pad. I had only ever changed my son’s nappy and had never looked after an elderly person. I was so shocked at the thought that this is what I had left Zimbabwe to come and do. I felt dirty and washed my hands continuously trying to remove the smell of faeces. I smelt it on my clothes, in my hair – everywhere. I could not eat or drink; everywhere I went I smelt the distinct nursing home smells.

I vividly recall my first few months in the UK as if it were yesterday. I cried and cried and cried so many times. I blamed my husband for bringing me to the UK. I felt that it was his fault that I had to do all this menial work and suffer in the cold. I recall waking up in the dark at 5 am to catch the bus and the Tube to work for a 7 am start. I would then return home at 9 pm after finishing at 7 pm. I did not even get to see the sunshine. I found life in England very depressing and lonely.

I recall once when we had no bus fare and my husband had to walk from Peckham to Central London where he was working as a kitchen porter. He walked a good three hours in the cold. He walked a good two hours one way. I was able to plait someone’s hair and got twenty pounds. I recall the tangible relief on his face when I went to pick him up from his place of work.

Our marriage suffered greatly at this time and for years to follow. We stayed together by the grace of God. I had always lived in a country where I had family support and was familiar with everyone and everything. In England I was displaced and felt disenfranchised. I was told that I would have to forget about my law degree and do nursing like everyone else. My husband and I both had a choice of doing nursing. Our host, Mrs Machisa, advised us both to apply and attend the interviews. She gave us sound practical advice. She advised us that if we studied nursing then we would be able to live in this country permanently. I decided to apply for nursing and was offered a place at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. I wanted to return to Zimbabwe to collect my son but my mother-in-law told me that she was going to bring him to London and that there was no need for me to come back.

My son joined us after a separation of 5 months. We were again the more fortunate ones. In my work in assisting migrants regularise their immigration status I have heard heartbreaking stories of families separated. Parents separated from their children for more than a decade. There is a whole generation of children that have grown up without their parents. The economic collapse in Zimbabwe caused many people to migrate to first world countries in search of a better future. This migration caused the break-up of numerous families and many children ended up being raised by grandparents. Our reunification with our son was a chance for a new beginning for us. I could not continue to study nursing. I was not motivated to do so. I therefore left nursing with the plan that my husband would use his maths and physics qualification to pursue a career in teaching.

In the early 2000s the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe declined at an alarming rate.

Zimbabwe began experiencing a period of considerable political and economic upheaval in 1999. Opposition to President Mugabe and the ZANU-PF government grew considerably after the mid-1990s in part due to worsening economic and human rights conditions.

Zimbabwe’s economic crisis precipitated an exodus of professionals and skilled workers emigrating in search of better economic opportunities.

Whilst in the UK our family informed us that the situation in Zimbabwe had rapidly declined on both a political and economic level and therefore it was better for us to stay on in the UK. Our family in Zimbabwe advised us not to return to Zimbabwe but to stay in the UK. We stayed on and extended our leave to remain.

We then started the struggle of dealing with the Home Office in a bid to get permanent residence in the UK (known as Indefinite Leave to Remain). Our immigration history was quite standard. Initially we had been students and then my husband switched to a work permit visa.

I worked in the industrial areas and in the care industry for a few years. It was the most frustrating existence that I had ever faced. I wanted to return to Zimbabwe but could not go back. I recall once sitting in the middle of a dual carriageway in tears. I felt that the situation on the road represented my life. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I found the life in the UK depressing and I was not using my God-given abilities. I was frustrated working in the care industry. I could not see myself returning to Zimbabwe either. I saw cars in front of me and cars behind me. The picture on the dual carriageway depicted my life and the place where I was at that particular time. I was so devastated and just saw no way out. The future seemed bleak.
rock and hard place

I had made so many applications to agencies for work as a lawyer and to law firms. I received rejection after rejection. When the post came the people in my house would laugh and say “It’s Rumbi’s regrets”. I felt so rejected and so downcast. My parents in Zimbabwe were so disappointed in me and felt that I had let them down and let myself down.