Church of England Diocese of Guildford Dunsfold


23 Aug 2021, 7 p.m.
A former asylum seeking doctor is to retrain as a vicar in the hope of helping others.
Edith Iheama came to the UK from Nigeria and fought for 10 years to remain in the country in a process she said made her feel "worthless".
Now settled in Nottinghamshire, Dr Iheama said she wants to work "with people who need hope".
The Rev James Halstead said he believed Dr Iheama would play a "powerful role" within the church.
Dr Iheama, who was a qualified hospital doctor in Nigeria, came to the UK in 2008 and gained an MA in 2010.
She decided to try to remain in the UK due to fears her daughters were at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).
FGM is still practised in Nigeria, although figures suggest it is declining. After claiming asylum Dr Iheama was not allowed to work while her claim was being considered.
During this time she and her three daughters were left homeless, moving from hotel to hotel and even being housed in a vicarage

"You feel so worthless; you are ashamed," she said.

"You feel debased and dehumanised.

"My children's head teacher was actually giving us food packs.

"It got to the extent that I couldn't even tell anyone that I am a trained medical doctor because I was not allowed to practise."

Since gaining permission to stay in 2018, Dr Iheama has sent up a community interest company, Vanclaron, to support those in the asylum process.

Her family now have a home in the village of Keyworth and one of her daughters has secured a place to study law at Cambridge University.

Already a lay-preacher, Dr Iheama has now been made an ordinand, the first step in training to be a vicar.

"I think everything I have been through will mean I can relate and empathise with people that need that hope," she said.

"I went as low as I possibly could. The only thing that kept me sane was my faith, knowing I am loved by God.

"I was stripped of every other identity."

The Rev James Halstead, who oversaw Dr Iheama's lay ministry training within the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, said: "I'm convinced she has a particular and powerful role to play in the ongoing mission of the church.

"Edith's church background is tremendously diverse - both in Nigeria and the UK - all of which she uses wisely in her pastoral connections, as well as in her ministry through her paid employment.

"She is already exercising leadership both in the church and in the secular world."