Jennifer Chipa

My name in Jennifer Chipa. I want to tell you about my life in Direct Provision.

I came from Zimbabwe to seek asylum in Ireland because my life was in danger due to the political situations in Zimbabwe.

When I came to Ireland I was depressed, stressed and vulnerable. I had given up on life and the stress of being far from home was killing me. I used to spend most of my time locked in my room which was also stressful as I was sharing with two other ladies I didn’t know. The change of environment, the change of food and especially the weather were unbearable.

A wellbeing study by ‘Cairde’ in 2019 conducted with a sample of 70% of adults living in Direct Provision Centers in Ireland showed a high level of mental health challenges and issues with access to services and support.

Many asylum seekers have been witness to war, persecution, natural disasters, poverty, rape and live with complex psychological needs and mental breakdown. Asylum seekers are very lonely and have got a lot of depression, boredom, anxiety, stigma, trauma affecting their wellbeing and mental health.

For example, I used to have flash backs on past experience, I had trouble sleeping, anxiety, depression and with not trusting people. 

Sharing a room with strangers, people from all countries with different cultural backgrounds and language barriers is not easy. It’s not easy to communicate freely on the phone as you don’t trust other ladies and feel like they are listening on your conversation or spying on you.

It is a long wait in the Direct Provision system as they are very slow with making their decision. People stay in Direct Provision for more than three years, not knowing if they are going to deported back to their country and having fear of the unknown.

Some cannot get work permits and some cannot get jobs which is very depressing, affects the self-worth and meaning. Some have survivor guilt and some of them, because of Covid-19, go through self isolation and frequent testing which is quite depressing and stressful for the asylum seekers.

I started ‘Pathways to Well Being’ supporting immigrants and ethnic minorities mental health wellbeing program and Mental Health Peer Advocate for ethnic minorities.

When I started doing these courses they impacted on my life in a positive way. I have learnt a lot and regained my confidence and my life back. I have gained more strength and courage and am happy. I can now transfer what I have gained to people going through what I went through in this system of Direct Provision.

I started some programmes in our centre helping some of the asylum seekers I stayed with and relieved some of the stress of what they were going through.

I used to support women in my centre. I used to provide guidance and encouragement to asylum seekers through physical and emotional support.

I used to organize daily yoga and meditation in the mornings, basketball, games and walks. I used to talk to them about stigma, and listen to them with active hearing.

I wish that the Government of Ireland would give all the asylum seekers their own apartment or house so they can integrate into the Irish community. This would they give them freedom, and they could forget their worries and stress.