We have all met people who have changed our lives. We have all had experiences that have shaped what we believe.
I met that person back in 2004, when I was working in Styal prison. I came across a Nigerian woman whose desperate story inspired me to start on the journey that led to One Small Thing.
Abused and alone
She had arrived from West Africa with her husband and young daughter. He was abusive and violent. He abandoned her and her daughter not long after they arrived in the UK. They were alone, with no support. He even stole her passport.
She started working the night shift at a supermarket in order to provide for herself and her daughter. One day, out of the blue, the police came and arrested her for working illegally and overstaying her time in the UK. She had no idea that her visa had expired. She was charged, sent to prison and her six year old daughter was taken from her and placed into care.
A sense of outrage
I was 23 when I met this woman. Her story had a huge impact on me. The whole situation made little sense to me. This woman was a victim, she was arrested, sent to prison, her daughter taken into care because she had been abandoned and she was working hard just to survive.
The sense of outrage has never left me.
Small acts of compassion
A group of us tried to help. We made a series of small steps. First we successfully fought to have her granted asylum. She was released from prison, and she managed to get her daughter back. It was a small act but it meant everything to her and her daughter. It showed me how destructive the system can be but also how the smallest things can have a life changing impact.
We all have a trauma history: for some of us it is much worse than others. We can all help each other. You do not have to be a judge, psychologist or governor. We all have the power to show kindness, lend a hand, smile, ask how someone is. Those small acts of kindness, taken together, make a big difference.
A twist of fate had left this mother broken, distraught and vulnerable. Yet it didn’t take much to dramatically change her life for the better. To me she will always symbolise hope, change and success.
One Small Thing is for her, and the thousands like her.
Founder of One Small Thing
Edwina Grosvenor is a philanthropist and the founder of One Small Thing