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A home in our community | Elmbridge welcomes fifth SVPR family
15 November 2018
In just one year, we have welcomed five Syrian families into our community through the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme (SVPR).
"It’s hard work preparing the house and making sure everything is ready – but each time, I see how people from different backgrounds come together in a single, powerful act of welcome. Each time I hope that, amidst all the strangeness, the family feel a little of the love that so many people put into making their house a home."
Elmbridge CAN Co-Founder, Jeannie Tweedie.
This is the story of how our community came together to welcome the newest family. The names have been changed, but the testimonies and the narrators are real.
I heard through a friend that the fifth Syrian family were arriving in a few weeks. I wanted so much to help – I was a child during the Second World War, so I have a tiny appreciation of what it’s like.
The problem is, because of my age, I’m limited with what I can do. But I do know people - so I rang around all my friends to see if anyone could help.
The response was amazing – I found a school uniform for the children, which my friend sent immaculately ironed and folded. My artist friend painted some lovely pictures for the children’s bedroom. I don’t know how much of a difference it made, but I hope they liked it...
When Elizabeth told me that the fifth family was arriving, I knew exactly how I could help. I had a desk that I hadn’t used in a long time. When I first arrived in the UK from Pakistan, I used to write letters to my family back home on it.
It had real sentimental value to me. But when I heard that a young Syrian girl was part of the family, I thought that she would use it more - for her homework, or to write to her friends at home, like I did. It was difficult to see it go, but it felt good knowing where it was going.
Around the same time, I was helping some friends whose mother had sadly passed away. I told them about the desk I had donated...
We were clearing the house, trying to think of what to do with items that mum had owned for decades. Among them was a very pretty bed, perfect for a young girl. It dawned on me how delighted Mum would be if she knew that this bed was going to a Syrian girl. She used to work with refugees herself, and loved to help people.
From that moment the bed took on a whole new meaning to me. It no longer represented sadness or grief, because for this girl, it would be a place of warmth and comfort. She might not know its history, but she would come home, see how pretty it is, and be happy. I imagined the bed was like the hands of everyone in the community – me, my mum, the volunteers and everyone else who helped - holding her up and stopping her falling.
We donated the bed, and I came home with an incredible sense of fulfilment. It felt like a circle had closed...
We were the third Syrian family in Elmbridge. When I arrived, I came to a house with furniture, food, toys and clothes. I found a welcome card for me and my family. I felt like here, we could start again.
I heard that a new family was coming, and I wanted to help. I know from my experience that when a Syrian family arrive in Britain, their future begins again.
Before they arrived, I went to the house to help get everything ready. I painted the doors and built the bed for the little girl. I was so happy I could help, because it made me remember how I felt when I came with my family...
The first things I saw when I came into the bedroom were the pictures on the walls. I liked them so much. I loved the colours.
I saw the bed, and it was so beautiful. I liked the school clothes too. Now I feel excited to live here and to start school.
I was afraid before - I didn’t know what to expect. But I feel better now. Everything is better now.
We'd like to thank everyone who donated items, helped us set up the house and made the family feel welcome upon their arrival.
If you'd like to help us welcome refugees in the future, we'd like to hear from you. You can contact us directly or visit the volunteer page to find out more about volunteering with us.
Images: Freddie Finn / Elmbridge CAN
Elizabeth's friend painted this beautiful flower for the children's bedroom.
Ahmed and another volunteer build the bed donated by Claire.