Who’s Who: Tahera Aanchawan from Archway’s Maya Centre on the importance of talking about trauma

Maya Centre director Tahera Aanchawan. Picture: Tahera Aanchawan

Maya Centre director Tahera Aanchawan. Picture: Tahera Aanchawan - Credit: Archant

The director of an Archway charity offering free therapy to “vulnerable women” says its services will be in greater demand than ever when a similar facility in Holloway is forced to close this week.

Tahera Aanchawan, 63, runs the Maya Centre, in Elthorne Road, which has been running for 35 years and offers free counselling services to survivors of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

She says the Maya Centre works with hundreds of women a year, providing regular one-to-one counselling with about three quarters of these clients.

Tahera told the Gazette: “It [the Maya Centre] was set up because there was a feeling that women were not getting to access good psychological help for mental health problems, and one of the things we have expertise in is dealing with is trauma.

“Trauma affects all sorts of things like mental wellbeing and how they [service users] view themselves, their relationships, their children – it’s a much wider impact and it’s about how we help them through that.

“Having come to the UK as a refugee myself I’m passionate that everybody should have the opportunity to make the best of wellbeing.

“But sometimes some of us need help in taking opportunities.”

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The Maya Centre is also running lots of “amazing” wellbeing sessions showing people how they can look after the physical health.

These range from community gardening, to personal training, confidence building and how to advocate for better housing.

Tahera, who’s been in the post for three years, has spent most of her career in community development, where she has worked primarily with women and people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups.

Pressed on the challenges of working with vulnerable women in Islington, Tahera said it has a higher level of sexual abuse incidents compared to other boroughs she’s worked in.

She added: “There are huge cuts [to women’s services] anyway. The Women’s Therapy Centre [in Manor Gardens] is about ten minutes away from us an they’re just closing down due to no funding

“Our services are free but we have to fundraise very hard.”

Find out more about the Maya Centre’s services or donate to help with running costs here.