The man who gives torture victims Room to Heal
PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 June 2017
For every terrorist who seeks to divide, there are people like Mark Fish, of Islington torture abuse charity Room to Heal, who unite. He speaks to the Gazette.
In the wake of the Finsbury Park terror attack, this week reminded us Islington is great at coming together. The work of Room to Heal is a perfect example of this.
Friday marks 10 years since Mark Fish founded the torture abuse in Cloudesley Road’s Culpeper Community Garden.
Mark, a counsellor and psychotherapist, met five asylum seekers. They were desperate for green space to talk about the challenges they were facing over a campfire.
Ten years on, this small community is now Room to Heal, a full-time charity of 80 members from 30 countries. It’s based in the Mildmay Community Centre, but still meets at Culpeper for a communal meal every week.
Mark was moved to act after returning home from aid working in northern Uganda, which had been in the middle of conflict for two decades.
He recalls: “There was any number of organisations going over to offer their support to thousands affected by the war. But what really struck me is that a community was injured, not just individuals.
“Fast forward a year-and-a-half and I was back in the UK working for torture charities. Again, what I saw was charities working with individuals. From my perspective, it was like they were being treated as sick people.
“They had been through terrible experiences, yes, but maybe there was another way to look at it. Using a community as a healing resource, talking to each other so they are not so isolated.”
As director, Mark oversees Room to Heal’s work with people who have survived torture and human rights abuse. It consists of therapeutic group work, but also practical help like housing and education – as well as social activities.
“We have had many, many people come who have clearly benefited,” Mark says. “People often come to us on their knees. They have fallen foul of the system and are fearful about returning home to the countries they fled.
“Seeing people moved from that position, accepting their reality and making a meaningful life is the most important thing for us. It shows we have a community that works.”
Room to Heal is holding its 10th anniversary summer party at Culpeper Community Garden on June 30. For more information, visit roomtoheal.org