I recall going to Extra Personnel in Coventry and looking for a secretarial job. I failed the typing test dismally. The recruitment agent even made me do the test again and my score was still dismal. They told me that they would keep my details on file and if anything came up they would let me know. I recall the day that I went to enter Extra Personnel Office rather than Industry; I had worked up the courage and had taken the very bold step of going to the Office side. My mind had been reconditioned to think that I could not work in an office and could only work in industry or care. My self-confidence and self-esteem had taken a great knock. I had started to believe what everyone else was saying. I tried to conform to the environment and let the environment dictate my destiny.
Taking that step to wear a suit and enter Extra Personnel Office Placements changed the course that my career would take. One day whilst sleeping on my bed and sobbing (I cried a lot), my mobile rang. I ignored the call as it was an anonymous number. The call came through again. I was offered a job as an enquiries officer at the Law Society.
I was getting paid £6 per hour. After three months my manager Pat encouraged me to apply for a permanent caseworker position. I made the application and my salary jumped to £17,000, with private medical care, gym membership and all the perks. I managed to convert my legal qualifications and qualified as Solicitor with the help of the Law Society.
I worked well in my job. I made great friends and really felt settled. We bought a house and had two children during my time at the Law Society. I always had a desire to open up my own law practice and worked hard to do so.
I established and opened a solicitor’s practice in faith and in the belief that I would have my settlement papers in the UK. I started a solicitor’s practice at The Quadrant in Coventry. I established and opened this practice in faith. It was a giant leap of faith moving from my comfortable and secure job at the Law Society to practise as a sole practitioner. I was encouraged and inspired to set up a practice serving the Zimbabwean community by one of my pastors in Forward in Faith. Pastor Mudere preached in Coventry a message about “creating a bosom” and allowing God to bless us .He encouraged the congregation to step out in faith and to go for their dreams. He encouraged us to become employers in this foreign nation and to go for gold. I still recall the day as if it was yesterday. The congregation was standing and cheering. It was a powerful and motivating message. I left the meeting with no motivation; I had been caught up in the euphoria of the moment and enjoyed the message but I was thinking he is preaching to the others. The next day Pastor Mudere phoned me and said “Mama, I was preaching to you as well, you need to let go of your fear.” The encouragement that I received from this pastor led me to think of starting my own practice.
My friends encouraged me; Jaimie and Nyarai Garande encouraged me to start the practice and to break out and aspire for more. I distinctly recall Jaimie driving a 60-mile round trip to try and encourage me to think outside the box. His way of encouraging was unconventional. He tried to motivate me by telling me how well he was doing. I sent him a long email telling him off for showing off to me. I had a very long rant. Bless him! It’s good to have good friends because he ignored my rant and left me. I can only say the Lord continued to minister to me. I had a very good work colleague, Muz Khan. He encouraged me to set up and even promised to invest some money in the business. Hannah and Andy encouraged me and helped me to write a business plan. Rose and Shepherd gave me my first computer and encouraged me to just get on with it.They were all such encouragers in my life. Muz pulled out the day I handed in my resignation!!
Muz encouraged me to start and to draw up my business plan and held my hand along the way, knowing that after I had taken the plunge he would leave me to fly on my own. I still think he had more faith than me. As my friend he saw the gold that was in me but knew that I was too frightened to do it on my own. He saw potential in me that sadly I did not see in myself. He walked alongside me for a season and a reason. It reminds me of the time that my brother taught me to ride a bicycle. He pushed me and reassured me but knew that he would need to let go. When he let go I was able to ride on my own. Looking back I felt doubt and fear. The same thing happened in my business; I never thought I could do it on my own so needed someone to hold onto.
I learnt a valuable lesson during this season of my life. It’s important to have people who bring out the best in you and encourage you to believe in yourself. I needed to have that push to go for my dreams. I changed from being an employee to an employer.
Fear was a big thing for me. I was afraid to step out. I was afraid of failure. I was afraid of the financial problems that I felt that I would face. I feared leaving the job security and becoming my own boss. I loved my job at the Law Society. It was secure; I was paid a very good salary and was established. I worked from home for two days a week. I was very comfortable and safe.
I have learnt that the steps of a righteous man or woman are ordered by God. He knows the way that we should take. He knows what challenges lie ahead. Soon after opening an immigration practice I faced my own challenges with the Home Office. My own immigration story was similar to many others before and after me. I initially came to the UK as a dependant of a student and then switched to a student visa. My husband then obtained a work permit. After completing five years on a work permit visa we applied for settlement. We tried to make a same-day application but the Home Office refused to accept our application. I did not even think much of it, thinking that since we had done nothing wrong we should just get our permanent residence.
In November 2007 my family received a shocking response from the Home Office. Our application had been refused. It had been refused with no right of appeal. The Home Office told us that since my husband had switched employers without changing his work permit we had been living illegally in the UK. We had valid leave to remain but the work permit was invalid as it was not linked to the school where he was currently working. I experienced so much fear, shame and anger at the response. I was scared about the future. We had made some investments in Zimbabwe but did not feel ready to go back. I had invested most of my money into our new business start up. How could I practise as a solicitor with a problem with the authorities? What would I tell my children? I was embarrassed because I was already giving advice to people about their own immigration cases. I felt very angry with my husband for not checking with his school. I felt like a total fool for not checking with the Home Office myself.
I spent sleepless nights pondering what to do. I contacted a top lawyer in London and he advised me to return to Zimbabwe. I started looking at plans to migrate to Australia and started researching into all possibilities. After my tantrum-panic-fear-helpless cycle I decided to surrender this situation to God. I did not ask for prayer from anyone. I had to work this one out with God. God is so faithful. I realised that he knew what was ahead of me and had set people around me to encourage me so that I would be able to set up a law firm that would help me.
God answered me in a miraculous way. At that time I was not aware that there was a category for self-employed lawyers. I woke up at 4 am and somehow felt a leading to my computer. I googled “lawyers working for themselves with no visa”. The search facility came up with the “Self-Employed Lawyers” category. I came across the visa category that I eventually applied for and was granted a new visa in less than four weeks. The process was so smooth; the caseworkers who dealt with this particular category were accessible by email and direct phone. I remember the caseworker joking with me and asking how I got into this predicament. He was so helpful and friendly.
I learnt to rely on God and to surrender all things to him. I believe God wanted to show himself as the Lord who provides, who directs and who leads. I also learnt to have compassion for the clients that I encountered along my journey. I had walked a mile in their shoes and therefore totally understood their anxiety, helplessness and pain that they encountered and faced.
In September 2013, after years and years in this country, we were finally granted settlement in the UK. Just to clarify – we always had a right to live in this country; it’s just that it was not a permanent right. I recall seeing so many clients being granted settlement after having lived unlawfully in this country for years. I was happy for each one, cried with, and laughed with so many. I never felt, Oh why do I only have temporary leave to remain? I never actually thought about it but just celebrated with those who celebrated and cried with those who cried.
My work has always been a vocation. I have realised the limitations that are there from not having regular immigration status in the UK. I have seen the impact of migration on families and relationships, the stress caused by the uncertainty. I have seen that many people are affected by the move. In the Zimbabwean context most people came to the UK with the hope and belief that they would raise enough money to buy a house in Zimbabwe and then return home within 6 months. Some did not renew their immigration status. The migration from Zimbabwe to the UK caused so many social problems. People have suffered. Families have been broken apart, children have been affected in so many ways, and I have been privileged to share part of this journey with many people. Some left an indelible mark on my heart and I will never forget them. So many people profoundly impacted my life.
As an immigrant in this country I am proud to say that we have been able to set up our own law practice, purchase properties and educate our children. My husband and I have done this together; we have worked hard and not seen our immigration status or our race as a limitation. God has blessed us and we have been able to achieve some of our dreams and at the same time help many people who are in need of help.
We have now naturalised and are settled in England . I actually count myself to be blessed as I have two homes . Zimbabwe and England.