My name is Almas Meghani and this is my story:
I have survived 2 abusive relationships. My 1st marriage was to a drug addict with many narcissistic qualities and second, to a complete Narc who left when I was 5 months pregnant. The most recent hasn’t bothered with his daughter (18mths) from the beginning and the previous one is a hit and miss in my older two kids’ lives (they are only 11 and 9).
After my first divorce, I was getting on my feet and went back to university to finish what I had started. I cleared my debts that I accumulated due to the financial situation with my husband, actually had managed some small savings and was quite content raising my two kids. We were finally getting on our feet.
During my first year at university, I met my second husband. He was a religious man, prayed 5 times a day, fasted, read Quran, performed Itikaf during Ramadan, etc but the other side to him was very twisted. He absolutely wiped me out financially, emotionally and in every way possible even after knowing I had come out of an abusive relationship. The abuse was subtle but so intense, it was difficult to explain until I learned about narcissism. I was back to square one but worse. I fell pregnant a month after my Nikah and my world collapsed.
I had to make a tough decision to take a study break as I have had tough pregnancies in the past and I knew all too well this one would also be a struggle. I suffered with severe nausea, pelvic girdle pain which caused so much discomfort and decreased my mobility. Managing my older 2 kids with school runs and housework, I dove into a severe depression. Never had I hit a low this bad where I felt suicidal and had no will to live.
When my baby was born, I was determined to never have to make the same mistakes again and break the cycle of abuse. I didn’t want to repeat what I had seen role-modelled to me growing up nor did I want my children to think abuse was acceptable and decided I need to relearn many things and change myself. I sought trauma therapy and slowly started to get back on my feet. I went back to uni and once again was faced with such a tough decision leaving my baby with my childminder. With my elder 2 kids, I was home with them full time till they reached school age but at this point in my life, I couldn’t wait any longer as I had been set back too much. My childminder has been an absolute gem for my kids and a great support for me as well.
With my small support network of couple family members and friends, I started to focus on my goals and regain myself again. I started training to gain strength and lose weight, and pushed even harder at university to get good grades and learn everything I could.
I have worked so hard and am proud to say I have had my first achievement toward my career goals. I am 36 years old and yet to graduate 😊.
I was chosen to enter the RSA Student Design Awards by my lecturers. 3 of us were picked out of a group of 20 something students. Out of more than 780 applicants, I was shortlisted out of 7 other students.
The RSA is the Royal Society of Arts and is recognized worldwide. Many top designers have started their career paths after winning such awards. On the 25th of June, 2020, I was awarded the top RSA Student Design Awards for the Cultivating Communities Brief 19/20.
My story is here to help anyone out there who gives up on hope and sees no light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone goes through different hardships, whether it is relationships, wealth, health, these are all our battles. Allah has said after every hardship there is ease. Life has had its ups and downs and even though it has felt like hardship after hardship, Allah has granted me my ease for the moment. I have learned to never give up and believe in yourself. Surround yourself with others who believe in you and trust that Allah is the best of all planners. 🙏❤️
I would like to share an article of my achievement published by Chris Fidler, Senior Marketing Communications Officer who works at University of Northampton. He has been sending out press releases and written the following below:
Almas lands top design award with vision to revitalise historic Northampton building
A student has won a prestigious prize for her ambitious plans to breathe new life into an historic building in Northampton.
Almas Meghani’s vision for a dilapidated former armoury in the middle of the Racecourse park caught the eye of judges from the Royal Society of Arts, who awarded her with an RSA Student Design Award.
The awards are the world’s longest-running student design competition whose past winners include the chief design officer at Apple, the director of city strategy for the City of Melbourne and the former head of innovation at Nike.
Almas, who is a second year Interior Architecture and Spatial Design student at the University of Northampton, won the Cultivating Community award, which challenged designers to reimagine common spaces to build diverse communities through food.
Her winning concept was for a community kitchen and ecology centre, which brings people of all ages together to build new skills, participate in allotment gardening and learn about healthy eating.
Almas said: “I feel amazingly grateful to have won the award, particularly as I am a second-year student. This achievement is beyond what I had imagined for myself and it makes me so proud to know how far I have come in my personal and professional journey. I feel even more motivated and confident to succeed and fulfil my dreams.”
Almas was one of 10 Interior Architecture and Spatial Design undergraduates who were tasked with coming up with plans for the building by Cllr Jane Birch, who is ward councillor for the Racecourse areas and sits on Northampton Borough Council’s planning committee.
The white-rendered building, which dates back to the early 19th Century and was used as an armoury during the Second World War, currently stores equipment used for the park’s upkeep.
It has been earmarked as ripe for conversion into a community facility, and plans for its redevelopment could be included in the Semilong and Trinity Neighbourhood Plan.
The Plan is intended to provide a community-led framework to guide future development in the area and help tackle associated social, economic and environmental issues. Projects included in the Plan have an enhanced chance of receiving funding from various sources, including community payments from developers building new homes in the area.
Almas’ course mates came up with a variety of alternative uses for the building, including a submerged theatre with outdoor stage; a drug rehabilitation centre; an educational wildlife centre and a venue for art and wood workshops.
The students presented their concepts to members of the Trinity and Semilong Forum group, Friends of Northampton Racecourse and the public at an event held in February. Almas said: “I had a really positive and enthusiastic response at the presentation. I remember some saying ‘We really need something like this in our community’, ‘I love your design. It is amazing and so refreshing’.” With the award under her belt, Almas is now relishing her third and final year at university “I have absolutely enjoyed my degree course, so far,” said Almas.
“I have learned so much from my lecturers and have been supported in my creativity and development as a designer.
“I have had a lot of realistic criticism as well, which has challenged me and motivated me more to pursue my passion and not conform to others’ ideas, but to be myself.”
Looking ahead to post-uni life, Almas has a clear idea of the direction she’d like to take. She said: “I would like to work with a firm for a short while to gain experience and eventually become a freelance designer or have my own firm and work globally. I want to travel as much as I can and focus on building as an eco-conscience sustainable designer and help deprived communities through my design skills.”
Read our original story about the Racecourse building design challenge.
Almas will receive £1,250 in prize money for the RSA award, which is sponsored by Legal and General.
Thanks to Chris and the RSA, I have received lots of media coverage through social media platforms and local newspapers. I hope Insha’Allah this opens more opportunities for me to fulfil my dreams.
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