Published: 08 Feb 2024  |  Category: Resettlement  |  Stage: We have welcomed a family

Experts by Experience: Mohammad and Roba share their story of being welcomed

Read about how Mohammad and Roba’s family were welcomed by a market town community in Cumbria.

Mohammad and Roba sat down with us to share their experience of being welcomed by a Community Sponsorship group in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria.

Pictured above are Mohammad, Roba and their three daughters.

Having recently celebrated their one year anniversary of resettling to the UK, they hosted a surprise celebration for the Community Sponsorship group and community members in Kirby Stephen who have supported their family since arrival. Roba wanted to express her gratitude and thank everyone for their support by cooking traditional Syrian food – especially as she was so pleased to have attained her food hygiene certificate!

Here are some pictures of the delicious food Roba cooked for her community:

Mohammad and Roba dream of opening their own restaurant one day and sharing Syrian food with their local community.

How was life before moving to the UK?

Mohammad: We fled Syria due to the war and were hosted in Lebanon. In Lebanon everything was really hard. We are grateful to Lebanon for hosting our family for 12 years but Lebanon itself is not very wealthy or powerful, and there was a lot of racism towards our family due to us being Syrian.

In Lebanon, Syrians are paid less than the minimum wage and less than other nationalities are paid. This meant that buying food and being able to afford to live was really difficult, and the children had to work too.

Roba: Being in the UK has given us hope again, as we lost all hope in life after the war in Syria. But the generosity shown by the people in Kirkby Stephen has given us hope and a sense of belonging.

What does Community Sponsorship mean to you?

Roba: Community Sponsorship means the chance to live again, the hope for a future.

Mohammad: We have friends who arrived through Community Sponsorship, and we all feel at home, supported and free of any judgement. We also have friends who have arrived to the UK through other means, and they have not experienced the same warmth from people in their communities as we have.

The group are amazing, and we feel as though they are our family. The physical support is fantastic but the emotional and psychological support plays a big part too. When we are happy, they share in our happiness and when we are sad, they share in our sadness.

Roba: The group has helped in many ways, from the smallest details to the bigger matters. We can’t really list everything that they have helped us with as there is too much to mention!

Mohammad: Mike (group lead) has supported our family in many ways, and people have been so friendly and kind towards us, knowing how we arrived through Community Sponsorship.

What has the experience of UK schooling been like for the children?

Mohammad: In Lebanon the children did not want to go to school, they would pretend to be sick because of the bad treatment and racism they experienced. In the UK, this is the opposite! Whenever there is a school holiday, the children tell us how much they want to go to school.

Roba: The summer holidays felt very long because of this! The girls are really settled in school and their English is really improving. They have made friends and have been to birthday parties with friends from school, which has been lovely for us to see.

How have you been involved in the community?

Roba: We have been part of a community meal initiative in Kirkby Stephen. A local restaurant allows us to use their kitchen and building to cook Syrian meals for members of the community. We have done this twice now and everybody who attended has said great things about the food, which has meant a lot to us.

Mohammad: I am working for a company called Out of Eden. When I first started, the language barrier was very difficult, but I used my skills to support with calculations and bookkeeping, and I am now feeling a lot more confident and settled within the business. I am really enjoying working with my colleagues and they have been helpful in supporting me with learning English.

There is a lot that I learnt from my parents. I have always been taught to look out for those around me and I put this at the center of my job, as I’m always looking to help other people and learn different things within the job. I really enjoy being part of the team and I think they are enjoying having me there too!

What plans do you have for the future?

Mohammad: The focus for our family is to concentrate on developing our English skills. We believe that with better language skills, the more opportunities we will have. I feel passionate about sharing our story, about opening a narrative to talk about pathways such as Community Sponsorship. I also want to volunteer with organisations such as Reset to help support other families in their transition to the UK.

Like any parent would say, the priority for me and Roba are our children. We have three daughters, and they did not have any citizenship or identification before. They did not belong to Syria or Lebanon. Now that they live in the UK and have identification, I cannot explain what this truly means to me as their father. I no longer need to worry about my children’s status, or what will happen to them, as before they did not legally ‘belong’ anywhere. They did not have a nationality, or documents to show that they belonged anywhere. Now, they are safe, and they have proof of who they are and where they belong.

Thank you very much to Mohammad and Roba!

If you’d like to hear more about the Kirkby Stephen Community Sponsorship group and their journey to welcome a family, then you can read more about them here.