If there was a way I could explain to you why we do what we do at The Oasis Centre, Teri's story is it. If there was a way to help you understand how we find the strength to work patiently and consistently with the hardest to reach, and why we are determined to see a building pumping out God's unconditional love 24/7 in the heart of one of the most deprived and forgotten communities of England, this is it!
The traumatic story below is told with permission from 'Teri' (name has been changed).
TRIGGER WARNING: This story includes references to sexual abuse and prostitution.
Last April, one of our Oasis clients, Teri, won our 'Achiever of the Term' award. Teri, who is as hard as nails, broke down when she realised that she was the term's winner.
When I asked her why she was so overwhelmed with her certificate, Teri's harrowing story spilled out as she told me through tears, "please use my story to help those people you meet give to our building project. When we get our centre, it will be the first safe home I've ever had."
Teri never went to school. In her own words, she "spent most of her time on the sex sofa". Teri, from the age of 10 years old was horrifically abused and exploited in her own home to make money for her mum. As you can imagine, school wasn't even a thought in this family. "We never had food in the house and I thought it was normal to just survive on drinks. As a kid I would often go days without a meal. That's why my organs are all messed up. I never got used to eating on a regular basis." I held Teri's hand and told her how blessed we felt to be able to serve her in the way we do.
Teri first came to Oasis two years ago when her GP prescribed her 'three sessions per week at The Oasis Centre'! As her doctor saw improvement in her mood, behaviour and general health, Teri's social worker (who had previously struggled to connect with Teri in her chaotic lifestyle) began to meet Teri weekly at our centre. "I love meeting my social worker here at Oasis. I've never got on with Social Services, but now they meet me where I feel safe. If I have any problems or they don't get me, I'll get the community support team to explain what I'm trying to say. I feel, at last, like I'm getting somewhere."
Teri continued to tell me her tragic story, of living on the streets by the time she was seventeen years old and how her mum had been replaced by an intimidating pimp who would beat her up if she didn't give him money. "I was in and out of hospital, you see, the guys I'd been with would sometimes stab me so they didn't have to pay." Tears were rolling down my face as Teri pulled up her top to reveal large scars and slashes up and down her tiny frame. "My legs and arms are like this too, Vic. Please don't cry; you'll make me cry". I just hugged Teri while she told me of the times in her life when she wanted to kill herself. "I'm okay now Vic, I've got you guys. I've got Oasis."
After a year or so of our community support team working with Teri to turn her chaotic lifestyle into a place of stability, our RE-SKILL team got to work helping Teri learn the basic life skills she needed. Within 6 months, Teri was getting 100% on her IT tests! "I think I'll try English next. It looks fun and I guess I could do with learning how to read and write proper."
We are here for Teri and always will be here for her, showing her how special she is and what an honour and privilege it is to help her reach her potential.
Teri's story is why I am so passionate about seeing through The Oasis Centre vision of a building pumping out God's unconditional love to a hurting and forgotten community. Teri asked that her story be told to encourage others to support this vision. If you are interested in supporting The Oasis Centre, you can do so here.