A Syrian family who fled the civil war are celebrating their first year of living in the Crawley area and have received messages of welcome from the local community.
As part of a campaign led by Catholic development agency CAFOD, the family have received messages of hope and welcome from Sussex and across the UK after finding peace and safety in West Sussex.
Before the outbreak of Syria’s deadly civil war, Noor and Karim lived an ordinary life. They had recently married and started a family in their hometown of Homs, where Karim was working as a car mechanic.
It all changed when the war broke out. Karim was forced to leave for Lebanon to find secure work, leaving pregnant Noor with her family. Because of the lack of healthcare facilities, Noor didn’t receive any check-ups during her pregnancy and when the time came for her to give birth, there was no hospital to go to.
She had no way of knowing she was pregnant with twins and although she safely gave birth to a son, she lost the second child, a little girl.
Soon after the birth, the house Noor was living in was bombed, the final straw. She fled to Lebanon to be reunited with Karim, where they stayed for four years. Life in Lebanon was very difficult and eventually, they were resettled in West Sussex as part of the United Nations Refugee resettlement scheme (UNHCR).
Unsurprisingly, the move to a new country, with a foreign language, culture and climate, has been hard. Noor said: “It was very difficult for the children. When the children went to school and came back, they asked why they didn’t understand the other children, why they speak another language.
Since they arrived in Sussex, the family have received support from Refugee Welcome Crawley, a local voluntary organisation dedicated to assisting newly settled refugees. Volunteers were there to meet them at the airport and have helped them navigate local systems, learn about life in Sussex and provided a much-valued support network.
The trauma of growing up in a war zone especially effected their eldest son, Waleed. Initially he wouldn’t speak to anyone other than his parents and he refused to go in the classroom at school. For many months, Karim or Noor would sit with him outside the classroom for hours at time, slowly building his confidence.
Now Waleed and their younger son Amir are happy and healthy children, playing table football, making crafts, enjoying school. Find out more about CAFOD’s response to refugees at cafod.org.uk/refugees