A Refugee Family’s story

By Kate McCullough

Refugee camp

Who are the refugees that Pope Francis, in his 2015 initiative, asked that ‘every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe’ should host?

It is heartening that this year, amid media hype about small boat crossings from Northern France, and politicians’ talk of ‘invasions’, so many in the UK have welcomed Ukrainian refugees to their homes.  But it’s easy to forget other victims of war, from previous years and further away, in Afghanistan, for example, or Syria.

Home from Home Hallam is a small group from Mother of God, St Francis’, St Mary’s Herringthorpe, St Vincent’s, and St Williams, who have unertaken the challenge of welcoming one such family, approved by the UNHCR as being in particular need.

Arriving in June of this year, our family spoke no English;  the father of the family had had no formal education, and of the three children one is severely disabled and a wheelchair user.  

Imagine the feelings of this family as they arrived … probably relief at being settled; certainly joy as they were reunited with family members previously settled in Leeds; but perhaps also a sense of loss for those they had left behind,  for their own culture, and for the finality of being ‘settled’.

Imagine also their challenges; getting a house, ensuring an income by applying for benefits, dealing with pressing health concerns, settling the children in schools, learning about our money, how to use public transport and where to shop, making friends.… and how to ask for help in a foreign language…

And this is where our group could help…  Next month, we plan to tell you more about the challenges facing this family, and about our journey.  We will start with an account of their arrival.