When the UN’s refugee agency first told us that we had been accepted for resettlement, we couldn’t believe it – we thought we were being pranked! I said to the person on the phone, ‘Just tell me the truth. Who are you and why are you really calling?’
Even when I went to meet with the UN staff in person, I kept thinking, ‘Is this really happening?’
It was during the second phone call that they told us that we were going to be resettled to the UK. That’s when it started to sink in and I started to feel really, really happy. I knew that my daughters would be able to have good lives and a good education in the UK, so I was thrilled.
I called my husband at work to tell him that we were going to the UK. At first he didn’t believe me, but once he realised that I was telling the truth he was so happy. Our friends and family were very happy for us too.
We had been in Lebanon for a long time by this point – seven or eight years. When the time came to actually leave for the UK, we were full of mixed feelings. Of course we were happy, but we were also anxious because we didn’t know what we were really walking into. Plus we had made friends in Lebanon and we were sad to leave them behind. Our daughters were especially sad about leaving their friends.
When we first arrived and saw that the Community Sponsorship group had made the house ready for us, we almost forgot that we were new to the country because straight away we could picture our lives here. In Lebanon, our whole family lived in one room. When our daughters saw that each of them had their own room here, they were so excited.
The group have helped us to integrate into the community here and have helped us navigate so many aspects of life. Things like making GP appointments, shopping at the supermarket, helping us enrol at the college, and getting the girls into school. They have been with us every step of the way.
Our daughters settled into school right away. I was so worried about them on their first day. When we dropped them off, I felt anxious about how they were going to communicate and whether they would make any friends. When we went to pick them up, my heart was beating really fast as I didn’t know what sort of state they’d be in. But when they saw me outside the school gates, they ran to me and told me how happy they were! They told me that the school had introduced them to other people and that everyone had been really welcoming.
The girls have learnt English so quickly. Sometimes they even help my husband and me when there are words that we don’t know! Learning the language is the priority now for my husband and me. I think this is so important because once you master the language, then this opens many more doors for you. I studied food and agriculture in Syria, so I would like to see if there are any related work opportunities for me in this sector in the UK where I can put my qualifications to good use.
The UK opened its arms to me and my family. I’ve started volunteering with a local group that takes care of the environment because I want to give back to the country that took me and my family in. We look after gardens, plant trees and do landscaping work. I really enjoy doing the volunteering – it’s a good way for me to mix with other local people, learn new skills, build friendships and practice the language. It makes me feel happy to give back in this way. When I’m planting trees, it’s nice to think that other people will one day be able to enjoy these trees and this environment.