Volunteering saved her life, and now she is saving others
AFTER being homeless for two years and contemplating suicide in her darkest moments, a woman has thanked volunteering for saving her life.
Shamila Dhana faced many hardships after moving to Portsmouth in 2012 from Zimbabwe.
The 36-year-old said: ‘When I was homeless I would wait for anybody to say, “would you like to come and spend the night at my house”.
‘It was very degrading to have absolutely nothing. I reached a point where I contemplated suicide.’
With the help of her family, her church and the British Red Cross Shamila began to rebuild her life and says volunteering was a ‘lifeline’.
She said: ‘Volunteering led me out of the difficult times I was facing. It gave me a reason to get out
of bed; and the opportunity to learn new skills and make connections. On a personal level volunteering saved my life.’
Shamila became a full-time volunteer in 2015 and now supports vulnerable migrants at the Red Cross drop-in service, presents school awareness sessions and represents the Red Cross on numerous panels.
She also works with the Women’s Group, which the Red Cross coordinates in partnership with Stop Domestic Abuse, with the aim to empower and integrate women seeking asylum into their new community.
Shamila said: ‘The women’s group is a safe space for us all to acknowledge we have gone through
tough times, but also to say we are here and we are not alone.
‘When I went through hard times I thought I was the only one experiencing something
terrible. My volunteering work has shown me that I’m not the only one. I know that every woman has a story.’
Shamila has now been shortlisted for a ‘Pamodzi Inspirational Women of Portsmouth’ award with the winners announced on March 7, the day before International Women’s Day.
She added: ‘When I was nominated I thought ‘Wow. People see me. People hear me and what I say matters. I realise now that I have something to give, so, if an ordinary girl like me can realise that I have a voice and that I matter, other women should know they matter too.’