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Mothers' Union Supports Refugees In Norfolk: Marie-Lyse's story

Marie-Lyse's story is just one example of Mothers' Union putting faith into action

17 Jun 2021
Mothers’ Union is a Christian movement for change which works to prevent violence, injustice and inequality. Part of putting this mission into practice is in seeking to provide a voice for those who have become neglected by society. This often includes displaced peoples and refugees. 

Marie-Lyse’s Story

What follows is an outline of the story of Marie-Lyse Numuhoza MBE, herself a refugee, who came to the United Kingdom from Rwanda and has now become a prominent member of Mothers’ Union. 

She has worked hard to ensure provision for refugees in Norfolk and gives talks about her experiences around the country. Her own refugee story starts in the civil war in Rwanda in 1994 when she was just a child:

“Back home, I saw so much suffering and killing, it was really, really painful and scary”

Surviving the Rwandan genocide was the beginning of a journey to a different life in the UK for Marie-Lyse but not one without its own challenges. Once settled in England she became all too aware of the dangers of raising children in London. Working in the community with young people affected by ‘postcode wars’ was to open her eyes to the perils of her new environment. 

Wanting a safer situation to raise children in, Marie-Lyse left the big city for the charms of rural Norfolk. Yet in Norwich she  was subject to racial mistreatment and found it difficult to settle. She only knew one other family and as the months went on she was getting increasingly lonely. Being an upbeat and out-going person, this wasn’t the life she wanted for herself and her young family.

Meeting the Mothers’ Union

By good fortune and through interest she attended an event put on by the Women’s Institute where she encountered a Mothers’ Union stall. Becoming engrossed in conversation over the shared importance of prayer she felt that these people were welcoming her into the community. This feeling was reinforced after a few coffee mornings with them and other Mothers’ Union members.
It soon became apparent Marie-Lyse had skills and talents that could be honed by the movement. Marie-Lyse herself commented:

“They didn't see me as a stranger, they saw me as somebody who has come here to add on to the work that they are doing in terms of working with families”

A short while later, they asked if she would like to become a member and her response was of course ‘Yes!’ It wasn’t long before she joined the Board of Trustees for Norwich MU and this further increased her feeling of empowerment. 

When the question of whether the locality should provide for refugees from the Syrian civil war, and people were weighing up the pros and cons of involvement, Marie-Lyse and the Mothers’ Union were unanimous in their support of the cause. They did a march in the city of Norwich and lobbied the local authority to support refugees.

In terms of financial support, the branches volunteered to put funds into a refugee resettlement programme. So now in Norwich there is a specific resettlement programme part sponsored by Mothers’ Union which provides beddings, teddy bears, welcome messages and the basic necessities for a new home.

A Practical and Spiritual Support Network

In its entirety, Marie-Lyse’s story shows how Mothers’ Union provides a welcoming support network for people in their time of need. Yet also important is an awareness of the encouragement the movement gives to individuals on a spiritual level. In terms of personal change, the various Mothers’ Union groups have helped Marie-Lyse to develop in her own faith. She now views the wider movement as a sisterhood:

“I view Mothers’ Union members as my friends and sisters … we all pray together and work together to make Norfolk a welcoming and special place for new people who arrive to settle here”

As can be seen from this, Mothers’ Union lifts up and supports refugees, helping them to find solace and security in a new society. This is definitely worth celebrating!