“We are the Refugee Council; we are here to take you to your new home”
Richard helps resettled refugee families from Syria when they arrive in the UK. He is a Project and Community Development Worker on the Refugee Council resettlement team in Yorkshire. Richard was the first person Alan and Ghaith, brothers from Syria, met when they were resettled in the UK. He has been helping them to rebuild their lives here ever since.
I met Alan and Ghaith on the first day they arrived, at the airport.
I like doing arrivals, being at the airport. The refugees we meet have different reactions. Generally they are really, really tired when they come through; we give them a nice welcome, but there’s no fuss or fanfare, we try to keep it low key as we don’t know what people will want. We say: “We are the Refugee Council; we are here to take you to your new home”.
For some people it can be very confusing, there’s so much to take in. The journey can be nerve wracking. The last family I met the dad had tried to stay awake for the whole journey so he could look after the family.
In spite of everything, when people arrive they are quite trusting, they tell us “We know we’re meeting the Refugee Council.” The last family I met at the airport, the little girl came up to me and shook my hand and said “hello.” Then she kissed goodbye the IOM [International Organisation for Migration] chap, who had accompanied them on the plane.
When I met Alan and Ghiath we brought a wheelchair with us to the airport as we knew Alan would need one. I was just hoping that they were going to be ok, that there weren’t going to be too many complications, that it would go smoothly. Thankfully it did.
Both Alan and Ghiath slept the whole journey from the airport into town. They were exhausted.
I took them to their new home; it had already been adapted with a wet room and a lift from the living room into the bedroom, so that Alan could get around. On that first day the brothers were very happy, and so pleased that the place would work for Alan. They were also totally exhausted after their journey and all they had been through.
The next day we took them to the town centre to show them around, do some food shopping, and get a SIM card and credit.
Over the next couple of months we arranged a lot of health appointments for Alan and took him to the hospital for the first time. We showed them how to use public transport and worked out the best way for them to get around. We got them into English classes and made sure their finances were sorted out.
Since that day I have seen so much progress, both of the brothers are doing really well here in Yorkshire. From the beginning, they both had drive to do things for themselves. Today, after twelve months of help with housing, healthcare and other support from the team at the Refugee Council, both are much more independent. They are such positive people and we always have fun together – Ghaith is quite a comedian.
The week before Alan and Ghaith, three families arrived, and two others arrived with the brothers. They were the first six families we received. There are some young families; the kids are doing really well at school. The primary schools have been fantastically supportive.
Since Alan got his electric wheelchair he is able to get around alone, giving both him and Ghaith a lot more independence. They have both been learning English keenly, and have come a long way since a year ago.
Now Alan spends a lot of time helping other people. He takes other Syrian families to the supermarket – to tell them what things are, and how much they cost. There is a little boy currently in the hospital awaiting an operation, who Alan visits every day. Alan is really keen to explore his new country. He wants to travel, learn and see as much of the UK as he can.
In the future both brother want to work with us helping other resettled refugees settle in and begin to look to their futures – they would be great.