Last July, I retired from teaching in an inner-city primary school. Long before my last day teaching I had been praying for direction for the next chapter of my life, but I still had no idea what I would do. Over the summer of 2015, the Syrian refugee crisis was very high profile, and I came across Home for Good’s appeal while I was browsing the internet. I felt very strongly that God was telling me to respond.
Home for Good passed my details to my local authority, and in October I began the process of training and being assessed as a foster carer. In March, an unaccompanied Syrian boy was placed with me. He spoke no English and the only clothes he had were those he was wearing. He was completely alone in a strange country with a very different culture. It must have been terrifying for him - but better than his last address, the Calais ‘Jungle’. He had crossed from Turkey to Greece in a rubber dingy, made his way across Europe, spent seven months in squalid conditions in Calais, and finally managed to smuggle himself into England in the back of a lorry. He was 16 years old.
He settled well but, although I could meet his physical needs of food, clothes and shelter, he needed to meet other young people from a similar backgrounds. I found out about the work of the local Refugee Forum and made contact with them. What they do with refugees is amazing and inspirational. So many people are giving up their time to make a difference in the lives of people who have been through unimaginable horror and hardship.
The most urgent need the young people have is to learn English - then they can access education, start to integrate into society and build a new life in the UK. I have now volunteered to run a conversation group for young refugees to help them speak basic English.
Having a teenage boy from Syria living with me has been challenging. Developing a relationship is made difficult by the cultural differences and the language barrier, but, as time goes on, we are getting to know each other better and it’s becoming easier. We have just returned from a family holiday in the UK. 11 of us were together, including six children from 13 months to nine years old. He thoroughly enjoyed the experience and joined in everything we did - playing on a beach, hitting the arcades and eating chips seem to be pastimes enjoyed by all nationalities!
I would recommend fostering an unaccompanied minor to anyone. It opens up a whole new world.