Westminster Befriend a Family

Ana’s Story


Ana’s Story

After moving to the UK three years ago with her husband and children Ana started to experience severe isolation.

Ana’s husband moved their family to London three years ago, Ana did not want to leave her country but she went because her husband wanted her to. Her husband controlled every aspect of her life. Ana was not allowed any money of her own to care for the children or herself as her husband believed he was providing them with enough. Having no money or freedom left her unable to leave the house or provide activities for the children, Ana felt isolated and unable to cope as a mother in this new country where she did not know anybody.

Ana’s family was referred to Westminster Befriend a Family by a social worker. They were allocated a family befriender, Suzie, who over time built trust with Ana and helped her to deal with her problems. Suzie met with the family every week for two or three hours. During this time she would play with the children and Ana as well as helping Ana help her children with their homework. Ana’s whole family was also able to share their concerns with Suzie and to build a trusting relationship.

Once Ana and her family had begun to adjust to a new cultural environment, Ana began to attend the parent support group (coffee morning) every week and began making friends and opening up about her situation to them. This was the first group of friends Ana had made in the UK and she was grateful for the understanding support that she received from them. Their friendship has developed a lot since Ana first began the weekly support groups and she now meets with other mothers from the group regularly to carry out activities like their weekly food shops.

The children engaged in weekly community-based activities, which gave them the chance to make friends too. Swimming lessons have provided a safe haven for Ana and her children to interact with others alleviating some of the isolation of their home life. Ana is insistent that Westminster Befriend a Family and the other participant families have become her family’s community.

Please note: we have used stock photography and changed the names to protect the identities of our families.

Credit unions and the financially vulnerable

Charmaine’s Story

How our Young People’s Project has helped Charmaine

Charmaine is 14 years old and has a history of being sexually exploited by older men. She lives with her mum and doesn’t have a positive relationship with her dad. He is no longer in the home and was imprisoned for hitting her.

According to police reports Charmaine’s dad had shown a history of controlling and abusive behaviour. It was reported that he verbally abused her by constantly making negative remarks about her weight and appearance.

Charmaine was excluded from school and has been attending a special educational unit. Her mother asked for our support as Charmaine was not attending the unit regularly. We have placed a mentor with Charmaine who escorts her to the unit twice a week and spends the day with her, helping her to participate.

Charmaine has learned to trust her mentor and she is engaging with her.

Step by step we are hoping to build her trust so that we can divert her away from the men who are exploiting and abusing her and help her to focus on her education so that she can see a positive future ahead.

We shall also be helping her to participate in activities that 14 year-old girls enjoy, such as drama, music and dance, as a way to help her to engage more with her peers.

Charmaine tries to put on a tough ‘street-wise’ exterior but behind the facade she is a deeply insecure and vulnerable child looking for love and acceptance from a father figure.

With your support and our mentor in place, we shall continue to help Charmaine to build up her self- esteem and focus on her education, allowing her to look forward to a healthier future where she can reclaim her dormant dreams and step out of her on-going nightmare.

This case study is true, but we have used stock photography and changed the names to protect the identities of our families.


Clara’s Story


Clara is a volunteer family befriender.

I have been a befriender with WBAF for nearly 6 months now. I received lots of training before I was matched with the family I am currently supporting. I meet with the family every week for two or three hours. During this time we talk and I help the children with their homework whilst the mother rests. I love being a befriender for WBAF, it is a very rewarding exeperince and I have received a wealth of support from the charity, mainly in the form of the monthly support sessions. It is a pleasure to work with such an amazing charity.


Please note: we have used stock images and changed the names in some cases to protect the identities of our volunteer


Rosie’s Story

Rosie worked with Westminster Befriend a Family as a summer intern.

I undertook a five-week internship at Westminster Befriend a Family after completing my second year of my BSc in Anthropology at UCL. I came into the internship with a rough idea that I wanted to go into the charity sector after graduating and working at Westminster Befriend a Family (WBAF) has thoroughly confirmed to me that this is a sector I would like to work in.

During my time at WBAF I undertook a number of different tasks as I was unsure exactly what I wanted to do and wanted a general overview of how a small charity works. I began my time at WBAF by conducting social research into befriending, trying to develop a better understanding of befriending and the different aspects of it. I also helped with planning for Christmas fundraising, producing a list of schools and choirs that might be interested in carol singing in the Westminster area to raise funds for WBAF and began to contact some of these as they can get very booked up! Another task I worked on during the start of my time at WBAF was the #uncoverwestminster social media campaign.

The main project I undertook during my internship was updating and redesigning aspects of the website, which was an amazing challenge and learning opportunity as it was not an area I previously had much experience in. Whilst working on this project, I also helped with a few tasks on the side such as helping organise an auction and relaunching the charity’s Facebook presence and developing their presence on other social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

As you can see interning with WBAF offered me a wealth of opportunities and experience in so many areas of the charity sector, from fundraising and campaigns to social research and communication. Not only did I gain all the practical experience that will definitely come to help me in my future career, WBAF is an amazingly friendly charity and I had a lovely time working for them.

Cristina’s Story

Cristina is a lone mother with 3 children who has lived in Westminster for the past 6 years. Her oldest child, who is 10 years old, suffers from severe learning difficulties and behavioural problems.

Due to a delay in diagnosis, Cristina spent many years feeling guilty for her oldest child’s condition and felt judged by society for what she perceived to be a result of poor parenting. Suffering from this guilt led her to develop depression and other forms of mental distress.

She was referred to Westminster Befriend a Family by her GP and she was subsequently paired with a family befriender, Jane. Jane and Cristina developed a trusting relationship over time and Jane was able to provide support to the family. Cristina and her family valued the chance to share their feelings with Jane.

Cristina also participated in one of the parent support groups that Westminster Befriend a Family facilitates. This gave her a chance to discuss her situation with others who listened and cared and assured her that she should not feel guilty. She participated in a one off self-defence lessons organised by the group, as well attending a talk on learning disabilities that was again organised by the support group. Cristina has made the most of activities offered by Westminster Befriend a Family; she has even recently taken a cycling lesson for the first time. This has helped her develop as a mother, build relationships with other parents and to cope with her own mental health difficulties.

Her children were also able to access other services provided by the charity like swimming and martial arts lessons. Through these opportunities her family has been able to develop skills which otherwise they may not have been able to. Cristina now feels like she can be a more supportive parent.

Please note: we have used stock photography and changed the names to protect the identities of our families.