Stories

“I’ll never be able to put into words just how happy I was in that moment at the airport.”

Mamoun was resettled in Devon with his wife Amneh and their 5 children after fleeing Syria. He explains the impact that resettlement has had on his family and the joy of reuniting with his brother.

My family and I fled from Syria to Jordan, where we claimed asylum and were recognized as refugees. But we had no future there. I couldn’t provide for my children because I couldn’t work in Jordan. My wife Amneh and I couldn’t see any hope for our children there.  

We decided to apply for resettlement through the UN’s Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, to give our children a chance to have a better life.

Once we’d been accepted by the UK Government, we were matched with a Community Sponsorship group in Devon led by a local charity called The Pickwell Foundation. Community Sponsorship is a programme where people in the UK can come together to welcome and support a refugee family.

For months, these people in Devon whom we’d never met before had been working to find a home for us, raise money, and build up their skills to support us with everything from learning English to finding a job.

When we knew that we were actually going to be resettled in Devon, we were so happy because my brother and his family had also been resettled to Devon a few years earlier. We would have been happy to be resettled anywhere, but this was really amazing news.

It’s very, very hard being far away from your family and now, finally, we had the chance to be together again.

It’s very, very hard being far away from your family and now, finally, we had the chance to be together again.

On the day that we arrived in the UK, my brother was at the airport along with some of the Community Sponsorship volunteers. I really can’t explain my feelings. It was so special. I’ll never be able to put into words just how happy I was in that moment at the airport.

After the initial excitement of seeing my family and meeting the Community Sponsors, reality began to kick in. Everything was strange at the start. We were in a new town, speaking a new language, getting to know new people. The language was particularly tricky.

But my family and I are very determined. We worked hard every day to settle into our new home, practicing English, getting to know people in the neighbourhood, and learning about the local traditions.

After the initial excitement of seeing my family and meeting the Community Sponsors, reality began to kick in. Everything was strange at the start.

The Community Sponsorship group really supported me during this time. I have a whole team around me to help me learn English! I spend around 7 hours per week in class and then I practice with the volunteers in the Community Sponsorship group. (But my wife Amneh is still better than me!)

It was also so useful to have my brother by my side. Everything that I’m going through now, he’s been through already. On days when I’m finding things difficult, he tells me that it will get easier.

Things were also difficult for my children at first. School was very hard when they couldn’t understand the lessons. But the Community Sponsorship volunteers helped us to talk to the school to arrange extra language lessons for the children and now they’re learning very quickly and they’ve made friends.

After 5 months in the UK, I feel like everything is good. Every day is better than the last.

After 5 months in the UK, I feel like everything is good. Every day is better than the last.

I have friends in Devon now. Every day I walk my children to school and so I see the same parents every morning and afternoon with their children. I started to greet them – ‘Hello’ and ‘How are you?’ – and then they started to greet me back. We began to chat more and now I can say that we’re friends.

My children are also very happy. My eldest son is really enjoying maths and the girls are enjoying art lessons. My father was a famous painter in Syria and I’m really pleased to see that the girls have inherited his talent. I have so many memories of my father at home with his paintbrush and when I see the girls focused on their artwork, it reminds me of him.

I have so many plans for the future now. My biggest priority is ensuring that my children settle in well to their new environment. Next, I want to focus on improving my English skills because this is the key to getting a job so that I can provide for my family. My Community Sponsorship group is already helping me to look at what jobs I might be able to do.

When I think of my situation today, I feel so thankful. It’s really important to Amneh and me that we can say this clearly: thank you to all of the Community Sponsorship volunteers. There are two people in particular, Susannah and Steve, who have helped us more than we can say. Without them, we would not be here and I would not have had this chance to be with my brother again.

If you get a chance to set up or join a Community Sponsorship group to welcome a refugee family like ours, please do it. You’ll make a huge difference to the life of a family. 

Get started on your Community Sponsorship journey.