The first step of Ma-Ri’s journey

When Ma-Ri first escaped North Korea, she had to live dangerously and secretively in China not knowing if she would be forced back, or worse. Finally, she was placed in the UK – however, this wasn’t the end of her journey towards the life she had always hoped for. It was only the first step.

When Ma-Ri arrived in her new home, she didn’t even know the English alphabet. But she was determined to learn and later moved to New Malden to pursue further education. However, this presented other challenges: a new location, a new community, and finding her feet all over again.

Ma-Ri soon realised she was isolated. She found herself in an abusive relationship during this period of her life, and she fell pregnant twice.


She first came to one of our advice sessions looking for help to find safe housing for herself and her children. The combination of her time in North Korea, as well as the trauma she was experiencing in her new life, meant that our services were a lifeline for her.

Thankfully, we were able to quickly provide Ma-Ri with mental health services and practical support. This enabled her to safely leave her abusive relationship and move past the barriers preventing her from building the life she deserved. Ma-Ri also became one of our successful scholarship students, receiving financial support, as well as continued well-being and career support. This allowed her to study while she continued working part-time and looking after her children.

Ma-Ri is now a confident and extroverted member of the community, regularly providing advice to others in the way she once received it herself. Ma-Ri told us:

‘I want to help others like I have been helped. I want our community to have members with ambition and the ability to have good jobs and good lives.’

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