Sandra and Harry's story

Sandra and Harry share about their realisation that they could be part of the solution.

Like many others, we were horrified at the news during 2015. The Syrian crisis was unfolding, with tales of dangerous journeys across the sea, mistreatment and even death. It seemed so desperate – but what could we possibly do about it?

Krish Kandiah came to speak at our church’s carol service in December 2015, and showed a video of children fleeing from Syria and other places. We were frustrated with the UK government for not taking in more Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASCs) but then realised that we could offer a home to one and be part of the solution.

During 2016, several things happened that meant we had the physical space in our home, and the emotional space in our lives, to take on a new challenge. Our two grown-up children supported the idea, so we started to investigate.

In October, we heard that some UASCs had arrived in York and needed homes. Things happened very quickly: we met a 16-year-old Ethiopian boy, and in December 2016 he moved in.

From the beginning, our extended families were very supportive and welcoming. Just days after he arrived, he was thrown into a big family Christmas!

Although the process of him moving in was fairly quick, it took a lot longer to get our heads around the system that protects looked-after children. With no previous experience of fostering, we had to learn who did what, and how it all fitted together. It was very confusing initially.

Unsurprisingly, communication has been an issue. Our boy knew no English when he arrived, and although he has learnt much over the past year, conversations can still be challenging.

However, we were delighted when he called Sandra ‘Mum’ for the first time. We realised that he genuinely regards us as family now. And we learnt that, back in Ethiopia, he had an older brother and an older sister, a Mum and a Dad – and that is exactly what he has here now!

After 18 months of no communication with anyone back home, the Red Cross Family Tracing service managed to find his parents, and they’ve been able to write to each other. It’s a huge relief to us to know that his family knows he is safe, and he knows they are safe.

Some of our friends have taken our boy on trips – to the football, or places of interest. It is a great blessing to him to know that others take an interest in him – and of course it provides us with some respite too.

Our friends have also supported us in prayer, and we send updates at difficult times - like the day of our boy’s Home Office interview. We all praised God when we heard he’d been granted asylum here for five years! He really relaxed after that, feeling he could settle down with much more permanency.

If something is worth doing, it usually has challenges – but we don’t regret our decision for one moment. If you have some space in your house and your life, then fill it with something worthwhile. And what could be more worthwhile than giving an orphan a safe and secure home?

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