“Find your circle of support and you can achieve anything.” These are the words of Tasleem Billal, 37, from east Belfast. In 2012, tragedy struck Tasleem and her family, leaving her vulnerable, isolated, and unsure where to turn. But thanks to GLOW, a Belfast-based group using funding from The National Lottery Community Fund to help women to reach their goals, Tasleem was able to turn her life around.
Mum of three Tasleem moved to Belfast after marrying her husband, Billy, in Pakistan. She and Billy had two children together, Mohammed and Jamal, but Tasleem struggled with the language and depended on Billy for everything.
“Moving here was a big change for me,” said Tasleem. “My English wasn’t great, it was hard for me to understand people especially with the accent. My husband came with me to all my medical appointments and he dealt with all the finances.”
Tasleem and her children were completely dependent on Billy. But in 2012, after nine years of marriage, Billy passed away suddenly due to a blood clot in his lungs.
“Billy’s parents moved us to east Belfast after the funeral so we could be near them. I knew I didn’t want to depend on them forever. The boys were struggling and I didn’t know how I was going to cope.
“It was on one day, when I only had £20 left that I knew I had to do something. Jamal was crying because he wanted food and it was cold and the gas meter was about to run out and I just burst into tears.”
Tasleem opened up about her problems to another mum at the school gates. Fortunately for Tasleem, the woman she spoke to was Chara Clarke, the director at GLOW.
GLOW delivers personal development, life skills and mentoring to women to empower them reach their goals. Since 2012 they’ve received around £150,000 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund to support their work.
Tasleem explained: “Chara was amazing. She helped me get a National Insurance number and apply for benefits. When I started receiving job seekers allowance of £70 a week it felt like £70 million.
“I needed to look for a job but I had no work experience or confidence. Chara helped me realise that I have skills – I can thread eyebrows – and she invited me to GLOW to take part in some classes to get support and improve my confidence.
“From the moment I walked into GLOW I felt at ease,” said Tasleem. “There were lots of other women in different situations, but we were all there to improve ourselves.”
Tasleem started a business threading eyebrows, working out of her living room. Since joining the group, Tasleem has gained the skills and confidence to expand her business. She now has a separate studio in her house where she does a range of beauty services, including nails, HD brows, and lashes. Thanks to National Lottery players, Tasleem has been able to come off benefits and support her family through her own earnings. But it’s her family’s happiness that she values most.
“My family in Pakistan are very proud of me and so are my children – they are what gives me strength,” she said. “Being a single mum is hard so working from home is really handy for me, but as the boys are getting older my next goal is to open up my own salon in east Belfast.
“I still miss Billy so much, but I found a circle of support and I found myself.”
Chara Clarke, director of GLOW said: “Having funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the years has enabled GLOW to support many other women just like Tasleem.
“We want to give these women confidence and self-esteem so they can discover their potential and go out and live a life that makes them happy and that makes a positive impact on their families and communities.”
To find out more about GLOW, visit their website: https://www.glowni.com
To learn about National Lottery funding in Northern Ireland, check out our website: https://www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/northern-ireland