Guest blog by Bob Goldsmith of Muswell Hill Methodist Church Sponsorship Group
As a member of the community sponsorship group attached to Muswell Hill Methodist Church in North London, I know a lot of remarkable people have made a big contribution to our work, but brothers Arun, 13, and Jasso, 2, have played a special part.
Arun helped paint, decorate and prepare the house for the family. Before the family arrived, he also collected warm clothes, trainers and sportswear for the teenage boys. He then travelled to Gatwick to meet the family and helped them on the way home, giving out water bottles, blankets, snacks and helium balloons.
Later Arun taught the older boys numbers and the names of fruit and vegetables in English, while the older Syrian boys taught him the Arabic equivalents. Most significantly, Arun enabled the Syrian boys to speak at a Citizens' Assembly before a large audience.
The adults in the Group believe having a 12-year old befriender has really helped the Syrian boys and young men (aged 12-21 years) settle in. They all dress in Nike tracksuit bottoms and have Adidas rucksacks so could relate to each other - sports fashion crosses all cultures! And the boys managed to communicate more easily and naturally than the adults - about computer games, swimming and football.
Once a week, since March, 2-year old Jasso has visited not just the sponsored family, but other resettled families in the area. Between all three families, there are five children aged 4 and under. The children all love each other and when Jasso arrives he is greeted with hugs and kisses which he reciprocates. The children read books together, scoot to playgrounds, play in the garden, fight over toys like siblings. Jasso has learnt to say thank you in Arabic at the same time as learning to say it in English.
It has really helped build a rapport for the three sets of parents to have children of the same age. In turn, the English boys learnt more important values and lessons than any school could easily teach them.
Sara Hamilton, the mother of Arun and Jasso says: 'it has been a privilege to meet these courageous families, and an honour to have her boys grow up as their friends'.
Arun and Jasso were awarded as Young Champions at the Community Sponsorship Awards 2018.