In December 2016, Syrian teenager Karim arrived with his family in Hertfordshire. He could speak very little English, but he was welcomed into his new community by members of HWSF and the Refugee Council. Now, Karim is headed to the University of Birmingham having earned an A* in Physics and an A in Maths and Chemistry.
Karim has shown impressive determination in his pursuit of an education. He took his first job in the UK about a month after arriving. “I was trying to surround myself with people who spoke English so I could speak it myself,” he said. “I worked hard on the ESOL course so I could acquire a good enough level of English to do A levels in the next academic year and not do ESOL for another year.”
He faced significant challenges and set-backs, but managed to maintain good study habits throughout. He explained, “Young Syrians have so much talent and they never cease to prove it, however, sometimes it is easy to lose faith. I think people need to keep focused on their goals and have faith and patience as the process might take a long time.”
Karim told us that he’d decided to study Nuclear Engineering because of its potential to be “colossally beneficial to humanity” as non-renewable resources become scarce. He credits his secondary school physics teacher for drawing his attention to the subject. “He kept telling us about how we can produce enormous amounts of energy from mere nucleons that even exist in water,” Karim said. “I started reading articles about it and about its potential which really appealed to me and made me want to be a part of it.”
After graduating with his degree, Karim hopes to either pursue a PhD in Nuclear Fusion or to work in the nuclear industry. We wish him all the best as he begins his university career!
In August the families from Stevenage and North Herts enjoyed a day trip to the seaside together. After the coach arrived in Southend, the children rushed to splash and swim in the sea along with some of the adults. A few families had brought camping stoves to brew coffee on the beach and everyone was happy to share out the delicious food they’d packed for their picnics.
The children were excited to spot two jellyfish and attempted to scoop up a tiny crab. After the water receded, a passerby with a metal detector taught the children how the machine worked. Before long, several of the children were digging in the sand to uncover a twenty pence piece.
One of the girls told a volunteer: “I had never seen the tide go out so far.” Other children mentioned how much they’d enjoyed playing football in the sand, swimming in the sea, and drinking slushies. A day spent relaxing and laughing with friends - both English and Syrian - made the trip a huge success.
Over the summer, an HWSF volunteer set up and hosted a mother and baby group at her home. She hopes to continue hosting these get-togethers, bringing together British and Syrian mums with their children. Here is what she had to say about the experience:
Caring for young children is joyful but it can also be isolating at times, especially when you don’t have family nearby. I think many mums experience this and appreciate the importance of having a network of other parents nearby to support them.
This is why we decided to have get-togethers for the Syrian mums with pre-school children in the Hitchin and Letchworth area. We planned it as a group playdate with some British mums who have children of a similar age. There were toys for the toddlers and tea and biscuits for the mums. The children played together and made friends in the garden while we mums had a chat.
While there are other local mother and baby groups, some of which the mothers already go to, this smaller group made it easier for the Syrian mothers to join in the conversation and practice their English. We hope that the mothers will now spot each other around the area – at the baby clinics or school gates – and have a friendly face to talk to.
All the mums involved said they enjoyed the group so we hope to make this a regular gathering. ---- Rose, HWSF Volunteer
HWSF has raised £3,000 towards our goal of £10,000 in our laptop appeal.
We want to provide standard laptops and software packages for twenty-four of the refugee families resettled in Hertfordshire with the most pressing need.
Previously, HWSF worked to refurbish donated laptops but we have decided that it is more effective to buy new standardised equipment. Although there are now 53 resettled families in Hertfordshire, we are prioritising the families with children at secondary school or college as well as those who do not have adequate equipment for job searches. You can donate towards this project here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1016803
Families from St Albans, Hertsmere and Hatfield came together with HWSF volunteers for a shared lunch and activities at Dagnall Street Baptist Church in July.
It was great to see so many families taking part and enjoying spending time together. The food was superb and children had lots of fun doing crafts, playing games and having their faces painted. The highlight of the afternoon was the giant Jenga which went on all afternoon with both children and adults taking part .
Pass the Parcel and musical chairs were popular with the younger children.
We’d like to send a big thank you to Dagnall Street Baptist Church for hosting the event and to all those who helped.
HWSF recently arranged a trip to the gardens of Brent Pelham Hall for some of the Syrian families living in Ware. The families brought along food they’d made to sell for charity. This gesture was meant to show their gratitude to the owner of Enactor, who donated iPads to the families.
The children enjoyed running around the grounds and lakes while the adults strolled around and enjoyed tea and cakes.
Afterwards, the group gathered at a volunteer’s house to share a meal and relax in the garden.
The Welwyn Hatfield Times featured the work of HWSF in a news piece for refugee week. You can read the article here: www.whtimes.co.uk/news/three-syrian-families-in-welwyn-hatfield-1-6119531
The filmmakers from Left to Right: Catherine Henderson, writer and creative consultant; Rosie Wyllie, animator; Katharine Seaton, producer, editor and composer-sound designer
We caught up with Katharine Seaton about her upcoming film, Suspended, which was made in conjunction with HWSF. Here are six things she told us about the film:
If you’re interested in finding out more about Suspended, or donating towards its completion please get in touch with Katharine Seaton, email@example.com
The St Albans & Hertsmere women’s group wrote this poem together for Refugee Week:
Missing our Family
And wanting to bring them together
Many of us are missing our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers
Important because every Syrian family is not happy
Love to bring them here. We are lucky because some of our children are here, getting a good education and we are safe here
You can help us to find a safe place for our family and support us to bring some of our family to safety here.
We had a great Eid women’s lunch at St Mary’s Church Ware. A volunteer brought a delicious homemade rice and lamb dish and there were also many addictive sugary pastries.
The Ware women were joined by women from Hatfield and further afield. Everyone enjoyed themselves chatting and meeting new friends.