Guest blog by Catherine Hammond
‘Yes’, the Croeso group in Fishguard said ‘We’ll have a second family’. There was a confidence born of already having settled a lovely family – parents Nasr and Najaha and 4 children - and the knowledge that we had learnt as a group what was or was not helpful. However, as the day of arrival approached, we began to frame the thought that there was no reason to suppose that a second family would settle as well as the first, or be as easy to get on with or enjoy living in West Wales between the sea and the farmland. We could only do the preparation as well as we could and then wait for the day of arrival.
Preparations were both easier and more difficult. There were some logistical hold ups on the house with renovations to be done which added pressure but then Najaha and Nasr helped set the home up. Particularly valuable was the shopping trip with Najaha, who selected what Samira would like to find in her kitchen. She also offered to cook a meal in their new home ready for their arrival.
So off to Birmingham airport armed with warm coats in case they hadn’t brought any, the previous time we had only taken blankets for a November style night in June. There was the expected long delay and then, there they were with smiles and suitcases. It was hugely helpful to have Samir who had come to Britain from Syria last year and had settled with a neighbouring group. He spoke Arabic and was also very good with the children. On the long journey west the family played with the toys we had brought and slept.
Back at the house Najaha and one of the Croeso team were in the kitchen with food ready to go on the table. As the cases were brought in there was laughter as the two Syrian women met and immediately launched into conversation. Then helpers disappeared and two of the team sat down with Hussain and Samira and their three children to eat. The English – Arabic picture dictionary was handed round as we found out if they needed a push chair. But how the appliances worked and what to do about rubbish was left to the morning when Nasr and Najaha, who had lived in the house before were able to show and explain to Hussain and Samira.
It is early days, but having the first family and the help from Samir has been a great blessing. They have gone shopping together, helped at the bank, been out to the park and kept in contact by phone. They are also living proof that a Syrian family can live in the vastly different environment of rural West Wales. As the two families talk about their aspirations there is mutual encouragement which we hope will help them all into the future.
Of course, it might not have gone as well. There is always an unpredictability about welcoming a refugee family, but having a good relationship with the first family and their willing advice and support can only help.