“I like caring for people, but can’t even do care work.”
A key component of being a part of the local community and having choice and control over their lives was, for many, the ability to seek fulfilling employment. This could include going to school and earning qualifications, with one person identifying the importance of passing knowledge on to the next generation. Many described how legal restrictions preventing them from working or going to school could significantly impact their mental health and make them feel as though their life was worthless.
“A job is so important … people need work, because [otherwise] you feel useless and [that is] bad for our minds.”
“I am wasting my life … There is no opportunity for education.”
“I want to have an English Certificate so that I can go to university … In my home country, I have a degree. It will give me confidence. I can make my place in the community, make myself useful in the community.”
For many, the pinnacle of a good life was the ability to give back to others, either through voluntary or paid work. In describing what a good life looks like, one person explained that, for them, it is about “being healthy and being able to contribute to society, uplifting others, especially vulnerable ones. Not just ‘’me, me, me, … leaving a legacy behind. Making humanity happy”.
Many described specific goals related to helping others, sometimes building off their own challenges or professional/voluntary experiences in their country of birth.
“I just want to contribute, but they don’t give me a chance to work or study. I feel useless. I’d like to provide food for asylum seekers, the homeless, and to help people.”
“I would like access to nursing, to work in cancer care. I was a patient at [a local hospital]. I could give people the benefit of my experience.”
Thinking about the hardships of others and being able to empathise through their own struggles meant that many felt that their own happiness was contingent on the happiness of others. One person described helping others as “giving you satisfaction” and how these selfless deeds “comes back to you”. Similarly, another respondent stated:
“When I am eating, sitting next to someone who is not eating, is hungry, doesn’t have a home, I can’t be happy. If someone is restricted from peace and joy and not able to fulfil their God-given gifts and talents, I can never be happy.”
Some described experiences of ill health as being central to their desire to help others, with experiences of long-term health conditions or being disabled being common. For instance, one respondent explained their experience of having cancer led them wanting to care for others undergoing cancer treatment, explaining:
“It is my cross to bear. I take it in a positive way. This helps me to heal and to encourage others. I helped an Irish lady going through the same [health issues]. That lifted her. I went to her bedside, chatting to her and encouraging her. She didn’t want chemotherapy. But I kept going to her. She has fully recovered now.”