Three years of planning, form filling, team building. Three years of fund raising, house buying, permission seeking. Three years of anticipation, emotion, excitement and the moment had arrived, suddenly our passport photograph family were stood with us. Suddenly Community Sponsorship was more than an idea, a project, more than names, this was real.
Beyond the chaos of suitcase upon suitcase upon suitcase and translated hellos was Rana. Below her perfect hijab, were mother eyes beyond tiredness, telling an unimaginable story. What does it take to choose an uncertain future, to trust her family to passport photographs? Everything for this moment risked, Gatwick her portal from a life known to a life unknown. Certainty, albeit fragmented, gone. Heavy, grey eyes reflect belongings and loved ones left behind for an unshaped dream.
Bewildered she trusts and we leave.
Not a week later she explains, “for many months I have not slept, who are these people? Only photos and names”.
We’re eating, sharing, laughing. Two cultures collide to create something new over chicken shawarma, tabbouleh, yogurt and sweet sweet coffee. The room dominated by our welcome sign, a comforting reminder, an art installation of corporate love. Her eyes now different. She laughs, her head rolls back and the room is full of joy. The faceless greyness of uncertainty replaced with the beauty and deep colours of hope.
Friday, June 21, 2019
It is refugee week 2019, six weeks ago we welcomed an amazing family into our community, it all started with a simple question 'is Community Sponsorship something you could consider?'
Looking back I can hardly believe my reply. The simple invite brutally ducked out of it with a carefully worded, six bullet pointed apologetic for non-involvement. No house, no money, no capacity, a bullet list of fear and indifference.
Looking back I can hardly believe how the doors opened. It was like a retirement was meant for this moment with it availability, willingness and drive. Meetings and dreams, planning and scheming and we were on our way. A new bullet list emerging.
· A local authority willing to help and to guide.
· A benefactor willing to give.
· Our church both local and national willing to support.
· A team willing to give.
· A Home Office willing to guide.
· Application forms filled
· Resettlement plan completed
· A house bought
· Painted, decorated, carpeted
· Willing translators found
· Warm Job centre contacts made
· Food bought, fridge filled
· Mini bus booked
· The day is here.
Six weeks in and hiccups, frustrations, misunderstandings seem far away. Looking back I can hardly believe we made it, but we did. Together we worked and prayed through a far better bullet list, a list bringing unimaginable difference.
Thinking of Community Sponsorship? It’s worth it!
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
I don't tend to blog as much but this is a day I don't want to forget.... btw Jamal is a pseudonym
I looked into his eyes and I saw why we had invested so much of ourselves into this project. “Thank you thank you thank you….”, we were at the airport and the Syrian family we will be sponsoring were with us in arrivals. The boys were beyond themselves with happiness. Jamal looks at his family and then me and whispers ‘thank you’.
Communicating through google translate Jamal reads my message, “we are looking forward to sharing life with you”, he looks up at me, tears well up. Full of emotion Jamal speaks into the phone and shows me the translation, “nothing I can say will let you know how grateful we are… we are safe”.
Out in the garden, high above an EasyJet Airbus banks and changes direction, the engines whine in protest, Jamal violently sucks in air, ducks and looks at me with eyes of terror. For a moment hope cowered. I try to reassure but sense the indelible memories of a life only seen by me on the BBC. With a sharp exhale of relief the moment is gone, and I recognise what we have done through Community Sponsorship.
Tonight a family sleep safely in a home lovingly prepared by a church I am immensely proud. Tomorrow is the first day of a new life for us all!