21st Sep, 2020

Syrian families in Warwickshire get more support during pandemic

Ian Hughes 31st May, 2020

SYRIAN families in Warwickshire are being offered further support during the coronavirus crisis.

Many of the families recently settled in the county have found information about the current situation difficult to understand and government advice confusing.

There are 35 Syrian families living in Warwickshire who are part of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement programme, a government scheme that began in 2015 to relocate Syrian refugees affected by the 2011 Syrian civil war. Many saw their homes and livelihoods destroyed in the country they once called home.

Support workers from Warwickshire County Council’s Children and Families Service help the families but since the Covid-19 outbreak, there has been a need for more Arabic-speaking volunteers to act as a point of contact for families, providing help, advice and information.

Following an appeal to people who may be able to help, the council now has several additional volunteers across the county to help Syrian families understand about the impact of the virus and more about the government advice to keep their families safe.

Nahed, a young Syrian woman living with her husband and two children in Rugby, is one of the volunteers.

She was resettled in Warwickshire nearly two years ago after escaping her war-torn homeland. Talking about her experience Nahed said: “My family waited for seven years whilst living in Jordan to be resettled to another country. I was so happy when I was told that I would be moving to the United Kingdom and I couldn’t wait to move here.

“When I came to Warwickshire, I was recommended to volunteer through my coach at the local job centre. I really liked the idea of helping others and I thought that it would be an amazing thing to do, especially as in Syria and Jordan, volunteering is not really something that people think about doing. Here you have a specific job as a volunteer, helping people.

“So I started volunteering at my local Children’s Centre helping out at different group sessions and I also began helping the PTA at my daughters school. I then started volunteering for the Benn Partnership Centre, supporting weekly drop-in sessions for other Syrian families who have been resettled by offering them advice.

“I am so happy to now help volunteer with the council during the virus outbreak. It’s a great way to have new experiences. It’s very rewarding.”

Nahed and the other volunteers are helping Syrian families in Warwickshire during the pandemic by translating information from English to Arabic, providing activities and learning ideas for children whilst schools are closed, sharing Arabic stories for children that explain the impact of the virus in a simple way and speaking to families that are in need of some reassurance over the phone and through online community groups.

Nahed added: “I have a WhatsApp group that is a place for women to speak out if they are worried and we also speak over the phone. We all had a really bad time nine years ago during the war, but I reassure them that now we must stay at home because of coronavirus and we are lucky because we are safe staying at home in Warwickshire.”

“I have two children as well so whilst we are at home more, my daughter learns English every day and I help to teach her. I also do activities with my children, we cook, we do everything together.”

Not only does Nahed volunteer with WCC to support other Syrian families, she also has qualifications in civil engineering and teaching Arabic to non-Arabic speakers and she is also studying English while raising her family.

John Coleman, assistant director of Children & Families at WCC praised the work of volunteers like Nahed.

He said: “This is a worrying time for many people, so you can imagine how hard it is for a family who haven’t lived here for very long or don’t speak the language fluently. It makes it much more difficult to understand the advice surrounding Covid-19 and there is so much information out there it can be overwhelming for anyone, let alone if English isn’t your first language.

“With the help of amazing volunteers like Nahed, we can support all Syrian families in Warwickshire throughout this pandemic so that they can stay safe and informed about the government advice.

“We are very proud that the volunteers have pulled together to provide support to these families through what is a very uncertain time. It is a testament to how the county comes together to support its most vulnerable residents.”

“If you are an Arabic-speaking resident in Warwickshire and you need some advice about coronavirus or anything else during this unsettling time, please get in touch with your support worker.”

Visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/coronavirus for more information about council services and support, including help with food and emotional support, during the pandemic.

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