Christie Murphy gives us individual stories from the work of ICN
Many of you know that I work for International Care Network (ICN), a local Christian charity that helps refugees and other vulnerable migrants. We welcome, love and serve them in the name of Jesus. Our goals are that they will settle well and become productive parts of the community, and that they will have a chance to hear the gospel. I spend a lot of my time teaching English.
Instead of facts and figures, let me tell you today about three people that I know, who are or have been my students. I hope these individual stories will make the work more real to you.
1. Abdul: in UK two months, 17 years old, Afghan
This boy came into my beginner English class three weeks ago. He never had the chance to go to school in Afghanistan. He had almost no English, but is friendly and bright, working hard, and is making good progress.
Last week he said a lot in a few words. It was during a class break, and we were alone in the room.
Me: You look tired.
A: (Troubled face) No good sleep.
A: (He waves his hands around his head – troubled thoughts? Nightmares?) Afghanistan bad, very bad. I see father, brother… (He points to the floor and stares down, as if still seeing their bodies. Then he remembers the word.) Dead.
Me: Oh, I’m so sorry. Taliban?
A: Ta-li-ban. (He says the word slowly, heavily.)
Me: Your mother?
A: No contact mother. Sisters.
A: House. Fire. Mother, sisters, small brother… dead? (He shrugs, he doesn’t know what happened to them.)
I am silent, sharing his grief.
A: England, good … no family, bad.
2. Esra: in UK four years, 33 years old, Syrian, she’s a force of nature
Raising three sons to be hard-working, compassionate, honest, respectful.
Caring for disabled husband.
Working in her profession – hairdressing.
Progressing in learning English at the college, learned to drive.
Studied and passed the lituk exam, required for citizenship.
Finds joy in running and volunteering at parkrun.
Supports a local charity by weekly cooking hot meals for 50 homeless people in her own kitchen, involving her children in the project. Also gives free haircuts to the homeless.
She is constantly thankful and cheerful.
3. Mohammed: in the UK six years, 55 years old, Iraqi Kurd
Mohammed is here with his wife and two adult sons, who are in business together renovating houses. Mo was a farmer in Iraq, and here he has a honey production business. After starting out with a few hives in his tiny Charminster garden until the neighbours complained, he now has 30 hives on a piece of land near the New Forest. Mo and his wife are plugging away at learning English – it never comes quickly to older people. They grieve the life they lost more than younger people do. But they are very glad to be safe, and together, and they are settling well.
Every June there is a global refugee week, and there is a special photo exhibit called Seeking Refuge that I really encourage you to go and see to understand more of the lives of those who have settled here. It’s at the Boscombe Arts Depot in the pedestrian precinct, between Boots and the Sovereign Centre. It is open every day this week, through to next Sunday and is free.
Seeking Refuge is a photographic project that shows images and words from the lives of refugees and migrants currently seeking asylum and living in Bournemouth revealing their lives not from afar, but from the inside.
This exhibition will introduce you to seven people who left places as diverse as Syria, Venezuela and Sudan and with lives as varied as a secondary school headteacher, a photographer with his own studio, and a student at school.
We learn what people were escaping from and what rich and full lives they left behind.
Christie Murphy, ICN