A snap shot into the involvement one parish in our diocese has had in supporting a family of refugees on the government’s resettlement programme, through a partnership with Christian homeless charity ‘Hope into Action’.
The family – mum, dad, daughter (age 6), son (age 11) – arrived in the UK from a camp in Lebanon in early September last year. The first two months were spent ensuring each member of the family was registered with all the essential medical services, and that their medical needs were taken care of. School uniforms and bags were purchased and the family were supported as they adjusted to the UK school routine. Our Family Support Team liaised with medical personnel, dentists, the local borough council and interpreters, home school link workers, etc.
Once registered and settled in their new home, one of the main roles of the team has been to help the family access language learning. Lessons take place on the other side of town, and the bus ride is costly, so the team give and coordinate lifts, which has given us an opportunity to be in touch with the family two or three times a week.
In December we had the great pleasure of welcoming eight Syrian families to a Christmas party with Christmas crafts, party games, food and gifts for everyone collected by our church family. The families were interested to learn about the meaning behind some of our Christmas traditions. The party games caused a great deal of laughter, and competition and cheating(!) as mums and dads joined in too.
The start of 2017 was hard for the family as they adjusted to the cold and damp, and the need to use the heating in their home. As we expected, the excitement of their first arrival gave way to the reality of the challenge of living within their means, and learning English. Concerns about benefits and the worry about what type of work the father will find continues to put a great deal of strain on him.
As a result of our connection with the local council, we have also begun linking with two new families who have moved into the parish in the last eight weeks. We are pleased to be able to explore with one of these dads an opportunity to volunteer in our youth work as a way of developing his language and understanding of work in the UK. He has a great deal of experience running youth programmes for traumatised young people (up to 100!) and has said he is keen to offer something back to our community. He is curious to know what working with a church will be like. We are hoping that these families will join our toddler groups and be able to meet new local friends there, and are very much looking forward to getting to know them and the five small sons they have between them.
The Lord is good – and we thank Him for this opportunity to make a small difference in the lives of these families. To God be the Glory.