Theresa Mgadzah Jones with two of her class

You’ll no doubt have heard about the Europe refugee crisis almost every day for months now. But among the daily news headlines the voices of those who have fled conflict and persecution can be lost – especially the voices of women.

Today is different. Ten women will be sharing their personal stories at the Hay Literary Festival in Hay-on-Wye.

These women all have a different story to tell. They have found their voices and formed a strong support group at the free English lessons provided by the British Red Cross in Newport.

Now they are putting their English to the test –performing in front of a festival crowd.

Don’t have tickets to Hay? Here is an exclusive sneak peak of what they have come to share.

Braa was born in 1990 and came to the UK to join her husband.


Braa came to the UK to join her husband. She joined the Red Cross classes in 2015, with basic English and a determination to master the language. Almost a year later, she speaks English confidently and wants to succeed in life.


“After I gave birth to my daughter, Rodina, the life smiled to me.”

Braa and Roua



Roua is from Sudan and came to join her husband who had fled from the horrors of war.


“I was very scared about starting a new life without my parents and siblings, but that feeling soon changed after I discovered he was a very kind husband. He put himself in my parents place. We have a good time together.”

Amy and Suzy

Amy (left), 28, fled China in 2009 to escape a forced marriage organised by her father. She is now married and has two young children. Seven years later, her future is still uncertain as she not yet been granted refugee status.

Suzy (right) left China to come to study in the UK. But when the time came for her to return home, she couldn’t contact her family and she could not fund her trip home. She found out through a relative that her parents had been arrested and their money confiscated.



Liz came to the UK from Cameroon. She still has a child there but is unable to return fearing for her safety.


“I try to learn English, go to school and do something in the future to take care of me and my family.”

Theresa Mgadzah Jones, who manages the Newport group said:

“The stories we hear in the media about the refugee crisis are often told from the man’s perspective. Women also have to sacrifice a great deal when seeking sanctuary in a new country.

“We wanted to give a voice to the women refugees that we support at the Red Cross. Through our English lessons, we have let them tell their stories and share their experiences.”

The British Red Cross is the largest provider of support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. We run projects to help people find out about the practicalities of living in a new place, as well as English classes.

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses are currently funded by the Welsh Assembly Government. Although they boost women’s confidence and skills and help them make friends, the funding is due to run out in 2017.

The Newport group also offer a free crèche so mothers can feel confident leaving their young children while they concentrate on their learning.

Make sure you check back in to hear how our women got on at the festival.

All images © Tim Mossford.