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“I was completely shocked as it was raining in the summer.”

Khalid had been offered the opportunity to resettle in America and in Canada but he had declined both, so keen was he to be able to return home to Syria. His children had been so disappointed that when he received a third phone call he didn’t even wait for the caller to finish their sentence before saying ‘yes we will travel’. Here he talks to us about his fears before travel, the warm welcome and how Cardiff now feels like home.

How did you feel before you travelled to the UK?

I was anxious, I had no relatives there and could not speak the language. The feeling of accepting this travel was more distressing than there not being any travel at all. Without knowing what the future held for me I was now registered to go to the UK. I had a meeting with the immigration office in Amman a week before travel. All the other families present were heading to England, except my family. Those travelling to England received an informative leaflet while I was given a big booklet.

How was the arrival in Cardiff?

Arriving was definitely a shock. When I left Jordan the temperature was around 42 degrees and I thought it would also be hot in Cardiff. The day I arrived it was raining; I was completely shocked as it was raining in the summer! It was quite hard in the airport, since it was my first time traveling by air and I couldn’t speak the language, so I didn’t know what to do. Due to the language barrier I had to use hand signs to communicate with others in order to get my luggage and find the exit.

How was the experience of meeting your Community Sponsorship group?

As I exited the gate I was talking to my wife about how we had no relatives here when suddenly my son and daughter were saying “look, look those are our names!” I saw four people who were in the booklet holding our names in Arabic on signs. As one of them approached me I hugged him like I had known him for years. A lady from the team started to cry and when my wife saw this she also burst into tears. During this moment I felt the most secure and comfortable.

They were all amazing people, honestly the support was so strong.

What happened after you left the airport?

I was told by the team to relax and that I was not alone and that “we are here to help”. They insisted on helping me with the luggage and even brought food for the children. As soon as we arrived to the house there was another team of five who were ecstatic to see us. I felt a sense of cohesion. There was a full middle eastern lunch all set for us in the house. I spoke with the whole team through the interpreter. I told them that I felt saddened by coming to Cardiff because of all the hardships, however, when actually arriving here I was met with a feeling of comfort and was reassured.

How did the group help you settle in?

They gave me a phone where I was able to talk with my parents. After this, they showed me around the house and familiarized me with different areas such as electricity and gas. They told us to settle in and gave me a mobile phone with credit and their contacts to keep in touch with them. After they left, every couple hour they would call to check up on us. The whole team had different roles, one was in charge of registering my children into schools, another registered me for the job centre and benefits, someone registered us into ESOL English classes and another helped us with settling into the city and learning about buses. The volunteers also helped with my children's schooling by coming to our house to help them with their homework. The community of support was diverse, with some of them being retired and even past refugees. They were all amazing people, honestly the support was so strong.

What was it like getting to know Cardiff?

It was quite a shock due to the culture difference and the language barrier but after a while I understand the norms and values and me and my family felt a part of the community. I feel very lucky to be in the capital city, and furthermore to be in the city centre. In general, the people in Cardiff are lovely, they have an acceptance for refugees and Wales is quite multicultural. I have noticed the Welsh people love life in Cardiff, especially when the rugby is on! I really enjoy it here and it feels like home. There is still a big pain that I have not seen my mother and siblings for almost 10 years but the team’s constant support eased this a lot.

What does Community Sponsorship mean to you now?

In the future I would love to be a member of these community groups, I really felt the assistance even though they are volunteers. They felt happy when I was happy. I have told the group that if there are any families who need support, I will gladly offer it, since the faster you make refugees feel comfortable the better.

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