Syrian family tells of Salvation Army support

published on 14 Jun 2021

Ayat and her husband Bassem with support worker Alex Foden
Alex with Bassem and Ayat

A family who fled the war in Syria have spoken of the help they received from The Salvation Army.

Ayat, her husband and three children spent four and a half years in a Lebanese refugee camp before coming to the UK as part of the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.

Arriving at Manchester Airport in July 2017, they were greeted by Salvation Army caseworker Alex Foden, who took them to their new home in Fleetwood, Lancashire, and continued to support them for the next two years.

Ayat, 32, whose three children are aged seven, nine and 12, has been speaking of her experiences ahead of Refugee Week. She said: “Life in the camp was hard. We moved from one house to another and we could not get work. It was very difficult especially when it came to education for our children. As soon as the United Nations said we could move to Europe, we accepted. We just wanted to get out of that hell.”

The help the family received from The Salvation Army was wide-ranging from buying furniture and food for their new home, opening bank accounts, registering them with doctors and the job centre, arranging English courses and getting their children settled in school.

The Salvation Army helped us a lot, they are our family in this country.

Ayat added: “We feel very lucky to have been selected to come to this country. The Salvation Army helped us a lot, they are our family in this country. They did what they could to help us and make us happy.”

Based at The Salvation Army’s George Williams House in Fleetwood, caseworker Alex Foden works closely with Lancashire County Council and Wyre Council to resettle families that come to Fleetwood. She supports them with all aspects of their lives including housing, education and training, health needs and community integration, as part of the government scheme to provide sanctuary to 20,000 refugees who fled Syria.

Alex said: “The first couple of weeks we do a lot of intensive support and will see them every day. We’ll take them out to the beach in Fleetwood. Their faces light up and you really see the appreciation.

“They have been living in such traumatic situation, it’s hard for us to contemplate what it has been like for them. Some will have been imprisoned, experienced torture, children have seen family members die.”

Alex will work with the families intensively for two years and offer support as they need it after that ends. So far they have helped 13 families and supported many more asylum seekers and refugees across Lancashire.

A key element is community integration, helping the refugees take part in activities like football games and art projects.

To see them settle and the community accept them – that is one of the best things about it.
Alex Foden

Alex added: “One project we are working on is ‘Beside the Sea’ where they will learn about the history of the Fylde coast and deliver a recorded presentation in English. This will be  shared with our local community.

“To see them settle and the community accept them – that is one of the best things about it. They are here to give something back. Many have set up their own businesses and are putting money back into the local economy.”

To mark Refugee Week, some of the children recorded a video thanking key workers for what they have done during the pandemic. Alex also hosted a socially distanced Syrian banquet at George Williams House on Saturday. 

For more information on the resettlement programme click here

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