She was in a formal relationship for just a year, but in that short space of time she suffered emotional and physical abuse, which left her requiring therapy to recover. The Domestic Violence Hub in Kingston referred Ingrid to Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness (KCAH), who then referred her to the Surbiton hostel.
“I had a very bad, violent relationship. I moved in with my partner and I quit my job, which was part of the emotional manipulation. Some things I regarded as normal but as time went on I realised they weren’t and that I was a victim. And that I didn’t have to blame myself.”
Moving into the YMCA Surbiton hostel was a daunting prospect for Ingrid: “At the beginning it was very tough, I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous, but I was rock bottom and there was nothing I could do.
Ingrid is working hard to establish herself as a musician and has recorded/produced six of her own songs and is planning on releasing an album soon. Her stage name is Ingrid Buena.
“When I tell people that I live at the YMCA, their reactions are not always positive. Some people stopped calling me for music jobs and there is a degree of social exclusion. I am an artist but where I live doesn’t define me. Sometimes when I tell people that I’m a musician and that I live here they presume I am an alcoholic. But on the plus side, being here at the YMCA has provided me with resources to improve my life. I now have my confidence back – YMCA has made me stronger and an optimist.”
Resident working on recovery
Ingrid has got involved in as many activities as possible, such as drama therapy and volunteering to help with her recovery and to get back on her feet. “I volunteer with Hestia and now I’m a peer mentor and involved with the Butterfly project. It’s a calm space for women to express themselves. They learn about what is abuse and healthy relationships. Domestic violence is a world of fear.”
With the support of YMCA Ingrid attend a course on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, and went on to prepare a presentation on the subject and has presented it to staff and residents. She also volunteers with the Operation Centaur conservation project in Richmond Park, working with Shire horses. “It’s so powerful being in contact with nature, with these huge creatures of God. I have never been so close to nature.”
The Shine Course which is regularly held at YMCA Surbiton for female residents is also a favourite of Ingrid’s; she is about to embark on her second course. “It’s a unique self-empowerment course for women. Its emphasis is on humanity and sisterhood.”