First, watch another short video: vimeo.com/349471048
Here was the end-of-year (2019) update from the CRSS Chair, on the CRSS's work with the Arafeh family, the first family we welcomed to Bristol, who came in October 2019.
The Arafeh family consists of Mohamed Farouk Arafeh, his wife Ghania Alhalmoushi and their two sons Mohamed Ali and Abdul Malek. They are from Homs in Syria and fled to Jordan in 2012 at the time of particularly horrible massacres and destruction in Homs. They had lived as refugees in Jordan ever since, and were selected by the UNHCR to come to the UK as particularly vulnerable refugees who would be unable to return to Syria.
It is now two years since we first started on this project. First we had to put together our detailed 82 page resettlement plan (with a further 30+ pages of safeguarding policy!) to submit to the Home Office for approval as a community sponsorship group for this rigorous and demanding scheme. Since the family arrived on October 9th (we collected them by coach from Exeter airport with our two professional interpreters) the CRSS has been working full-time to help them adjust to their new life here in Bristol. They have super accommodation that we furnished for them in a nice leafy and safe suburb of north Bristol. We arranged full medical registration and checks that have led to scheduled cataract operations for Ghania and new glasses for Mohamed F. The family has received comprehensive dental checks, fillings and hygienist treatment. Bank accounts have been sorted out and state benefits are now helping their finances. Up until that time the CRSS had provided the family with full financial support. We arranged sim-cards and contracts for their mobiles so they could ring friends in the Middle East, laptop and broadband connection and a television so they can watch British and Arabic television, we have provided startup bus passes and shown them how to use the buses to access shops, mosques, museums and other areas of Bristol that they may wish to visit.
All of this has been done with the idea of gradually encouraging their independence from us so that the family can function safely and efficiently in this city and country.
We have introduced the family to members of the local Syrian community and taken them to several events and refugee parties. The children have now both started at a good local secondary school, and the CRSS arranged for meals and paid for their starting uniforms, shoes, school-bags, geometry sets and so on. The family has been receiving English language tuition from our volunteers for three days a week and in January the parents started a certificated course in English at college which, together with other tuition we have arranged for them, will give them about 9 hours a week language teaching (one hour more than the 8 hours the Home Office asks us to provide).
The next stage of our project is to help the parents to gain the training and support needed eventually to move off benefits and into work.
If you happen to know of anyone who could give some sort of paid employment or helpful voluntary work please do get in touch with us!
For the CRSS 2019 was an enormously exhausting but completely fulfilling year. Dear generous friends, I hope this short update has been encouraging. On behalf of the Arafeh family and the CRSS thank you, thank you yet again for your kindness, your prayers and your support. The horrors of the war in Syria are for us almost unimaginable. For these new friends of ours you have made a total, life-transforming, life-enhancing, difference.
And, to be honest, for us who through grace have been privileged to help them as well.
May God richly bless you all.
And here is another short video clip you can watch! vimeo.com/349471048