'The ICE Benevolent Fund gave me my life back'

Izabela Wdowinska, 36, tells her story of how the ICE Ben Fund supported her when she needed it most, and helped her turn her family's life around. 

Izabela Wdowinska.
Izabela Wdowinska.
I’ve always been a hardworking person. I studied at Wroclaw Technical University in Poland, graduated with a master's degree in civil engineering, and went to the UK to find work. 

I was also a happy and positive person and earned enough to travel the world and have great experiences. 

Before my 30th birthday, I met a man. I fell in love with him. I felt we really shared the same values and I didn’t predict what the future would bring. 

Over four years of our relationship I had three miscarriages. I had no reason to doubt him. He was always by my side, supporting me through this difficult time. 
 

Something changed 

On the fourth try, I successfully got pregnant. At the scan, when I saw my baby, Keira, for the first time, I cried with happiness. 

But that’s when my relationship began to break down.

After a second baby, I ended up leaving my home with my children.
 

A difficult time 

I was in emergency accommodation, far from our home and with only a few personal items. 

I applied for loans, but had applications rejected because I hadn’t had any income for the past few months while I was on maternity leave.

I successfully applied for a very high-rate loan and rented a house. 

Having my mum with me, I quickly returned to work and shortly after I paid off my loan.  

I tried to manage a work life while fighting my ex in court. All my income was spent on bills and solicitor’s invoices. 

I barely had money to buy food for children and my mum and I were left with nothing.
  

How the ICE Benevolent Fund helped me 

I didn’t know what to do, where to go. Because my last P60 and salary were above minimum wage, I didn’t qualify for legal aid or any support.  

I didn’t want to be homeless again and couldn’t let my children live on the streets, and I didn’t want to lose my job.  

I didn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, wasn’t able to progress with my chartership report.  

I felt that I needed to tell my ICE mentor that I couldn’t continue writing my report and it was likely I wouldn’t be able to work again.  

I told my ICE mentor that I strongly believed I could bounce back, but I just didn’t know how. I must, because I was an engineer, a mummy and I have two amazing children to raise. He came to me with an article about the ICE Benevolent Fund and advised me to contact them. 

I did. I filled in all the documents.

I had an appointment with the Benevolent Fund visitor, Michael, at my home to discuss my application.  

I was amazed at the simplicity of the application process and I was grateful I could meet with Michael to explain my situation. I felt I wasn’t just a name on the application form that no one would ever know. Having an opportunity to speak with Michael, who was keen to listen and learn my story meant a lot to me. 

I also had a meeting with Steve, a Ben Fund financial advisor. We reviewed my family budget and were trying to explore alternative options to save more money within a month. I was amazed at how knowledgeable Steve was and how supportive. I was pleased to discover that the way I managed my family's finance was unquestioned.  

Having the meetings with Michael and Steve was priceless to me. I wanted to tell the Benevolent Fund, Trustees and members that I don’t want to live on support. I was in a very difficult situation and I just needed temporary help to lift me up and get me back on track so that my family and I could continue living and not just existing. 

Shortly after, I received a letter. 

Even now while I’m writing those words, tears of joy are falling down my cheeks. 

When I read the sentence stating that the Benevolent Fund Trustees approved my request for support, I couldn’t believe it, I was crying like a child. It was an amazing feeling, the best moment. 

I always have been a strong woman and very passionate engineer and I wanted to maintain that.
 

‘ICE, you gave me my life back’ 

I received not one-off support. I have received a monthly support where I could pay my home bills, continue sending Keira to nursery, buy milk every day, do a weekly shop. I could even buy the children a treat. 

ICE – you gave me my life back, you uplifted me, you uplifted my life and life of my children, as well as the life of my mum. 
 

‘The engineering family is here for you’ 

I kept my job, started sleeping, eating and being able to focus on engineering. 

 As a project manager I currently manage the largest UK SUDs scheme and I’m also the only woman in our company who’s looking after growth schemes in whole Thames Valley, which says a lot about my skills.  

Keira is now five, and Logan is three. They’re developing fantastically and enjoying their childhood. 

You have to be at the bottom of your life to experience the power of life uplift.  

From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of my family I wish you never to experience this, but if you do, remember that we are a big engineering family and we are here for you. 
 

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