He is only 22, but Tower Hamlets local Rafik Boutiche is on a mission to provide mental and financial support to single parent families and people with marital problems.
Boutiche – who says his ambition is motivated by a childhood shaped by his parents’ separation – is in the early stages of setting up an organisation he hopes will both support single parent families and also help those in partnerships maintain their relationships.
Boutiche says he hopes that the Mariam Foundation, a non-profit, will be launched by Janaury 2022.
“I have an urge to try help solve an issue that a lot of kids and women are facing as a result of marital problems,” he says.
Boutiche cites personal experience as a child who was a witness of marital difficulties at home and the separation of his parents as a motivating force.
“My parents’ marital difficulties at the time made me a witness of a lot of day-to-day struggles, their separation forced my mother to start a foundation for a new family out of nothingness, she had to build life alone for us all.
“Our performance in school significantly dropped, the physical separation between me and my siblings also affected our mental health severely.
“So, I asked myself ‘what is the solution when everything breaks down?’ The only thing that helps is people and sharing.
“The goal of helping my mother changed to how many more mothers need help and how many children are also experiencing what I am going through.
“People need to connect with other people they can relate to in order to cope with the vulnerabilities that they are going through.”
“We need a space where vulnerable people who are struggling as a result of marital problems or single parenthood receive physical and mental support that will help them reach stability once again.”
While working part-time as a social media content creator, Boutiche is also working on how to get funding for the foundation. He is trying to set up sponsorships with business owners, selling merchandise on e-commerce websites with funds planned to go to the foundation. He is also going to build a GoFundMe page which will be promoted on social media platforms.
He says this his goal is to employ an active psychologist in every mosque/community centre that will be free of charge for the people in the community. He also wants to create a community where there will be professionals educating men on how to maintain a healthy relationship with their spouses and vice versa.
Boutiche says: “When it comes to paying people for their work I will figure out the best way to do so. I haven’t got it all figured out, but that’s just how every big project starts. It starts with a small thought, and slowly things will start to figure itself out.
“From my side I will make the connections that’s needed and have the conversations that will help me find the best way of getting … funding.”
Tower Hamlets Report shows that the borough has one of the highest proportion of single person households in London (35 per cent vs. 32 per cent) and a smaller proportion of single family households with children (28 per cent vs. 36 per cent).
When asked by ELL about how he feels, being a young male who is opening an organisation that will predominantly support women Boutiche said: “I don’t want people to acknowledge that a man is behind the charity, I don’t want people to look at it in a wrong way, I’m not trying portray the ongoing male saviour stereotype by founding the organisation.
“I don’t need the credit and the attention on me or anybody the aim is just to support people.
“I have gathered a team of strong women, which will maintain the strength of the foundation and contribute towards making other females feel confident and comfortable at taking ambitious steps in life and supporting their communities.
“I have faced a lot of trials along with my family over the years and I love what all these challenges have transferred us as individuals into.”
His mother Halima Boutiche stands behind her son and supports what he is hoping to do.
She explains: “As a female, a wife, and a mother, I believe that society has expectations of us to be able to please the people surrounding us. Building and maintaining the ‘perfect marriage’ and ‘family’ is one of those expectations which has been planted into our systems as a dream from a very young age.
“We hold onto that ‘dream’ and once we are unable to hold onto it anymore and struggle to continue pleasing our surroundings, we experience a big loss and it is a lot to cope with, we have to deal with things such as feeling like failure and not deserving things.
“A lot of women go through this and have no place to go and nobody to talk to nor ways to cope, we have created this safe place, so that women and children like us can share a cup of tea and tell each other that there’s light at the end of the tunnel and we can persevere despite of the difficulties.
“I have been very blessed to receive love and support from colleagues and children, they supported my mental health and helped me dela with the separation between the family.
“Mariam Foundation will be the place where we will share our stories and comfort each other as we experience difficulties and fail to fulfil society’s expectations. Women sacrifice a lot in our community, and we need to stop that. We need to put that message across.”