When the first national lockdown hit the UK in March, Christina says she cried “day and night”.
She’d been attending St Mungo’s Recovery College for a year after her mentor at church suggested that re-engaging in education could help her to cope with the trauma of losing many members of her family in extreme violence.
She says the college helped her build a new life: “I had found a place, a life and a home where I belonged. It was very difficult when lockdown was announced. I wondered: was I ever going to lead that life again? “It was so difficult, I didn’t know what to do.”
Christina, who is currently staying at a friend’s house, was previously attending the college full time, taking part in a range of courses and building her employability skills. With the college closed, the support networks around her fell away.
But Christina was one of 550 students at Recovery College who was given a mobile phone. With that phone – and a bit of training on how to use it – she was able to talk to her friends remotely and continue her learning. Having a phone also meant that she could join with her church virtually, speak to her GP about her wellbeing, and contact food banks that delivered parcels to her door.
Without these contacts, she says that lockdown would have been “very, very, very lonely”.
“The Recovery College eased my pain, occupied my mind and allowed me to socialise. When lockdown was announced and the college closed, I was really worried about what would happen. I even felt like harming myself.
“But when I received a free phone, it was such a relief. I’ve spent all of lockdown talking to my friends,” she says.
“Even after this, my dream is to help others, I want to give others what I’ve received, and be able to care and teach others, and be part of their life.”