THE BLOG

Remembering We Have More In Common This Refugee Week

20/06/2017 17:15 BST | Updated 20/06/2017 17:16 BST
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People lay flowers and tributes outside Notting Hill Methodist Church, close to Grenfell Tower in west London after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building on Wednesday morning.

As tragedy after tragedy unfolds on our own doorstep here in the UK it becomes a little easier for me to imagine the kind of horror people fleeing war have experienced - the horror they are running from and the horrors they have seen while trying to get their families to safety.

Recent appalling events at home have given a fleeting insight into the unimaginable terror that is the norm for hundreds of thousands of families caught up in wars across the globe.

The anniversary of Jo Cox's murder last week, the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire and recent terrorist attacks in Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park have shown us that even in the face of adversity communities come together to support each other.

People have rallied around each other, despite their grief and anger at the senseless loss of so many lives and there will always be someone to help pick up the pieces after something awful happens; that's just the way people are.

The first victim of the Grenfell Tower tragedy Mohammed Alhajali was the embodiment of this spirit. The Syrian refugee, along with his brother Omar who survived the fire, was helping to organise his local Great Get Together to honour Jo Cox and to celebrate Refugee Week this week.

Mohammed was actively trying to bring his community together to celebrate the fact that, while we may all have different pasts, we have a shared future.

At Barnardo's we are investing in the future of hundreds of thousands of children, including refugees like Mohammed. We now support more than 250 children in refugee families that have fled war in Syria, finding sanctuary in Northern Ireland.

There will always be someone to help pick up the pieces after something awful happens; that's just the way people are.

Our staff work intensively with families to help settle and support them to become independent in their local community. We give them practical and emotional support, helping them register with their GP, dentist and optician, securing school places for children and dealing with their housing needs.

We support them to build new lives in the UK - to help them become part of the shared future of all of us - and Barnardo's workers tell me that seeing families settle into their new lives is the most rewarding part of their jobs.

The Syrian families we support have fled unimaginable horror in their home country, made dangerous journeys to escape war and have sometimes spent months or even years in temporary, overcrowded camps.

A 'head full of hope and a belly full of fear'

When they arrive in the UK they have a "head full of hope and a belly full of fear," as one of our workers put it. Seeing the hope grow as families settle down, integrate into their communities and become more and more independent means our workers know they are making a difference.

One worker painted a vivid picture of when he drove away from a family for the last time after giving them months of support. He watched them in his rear-view mirror, gathered outside their home with their neighbours and waving him off like an old friend as the children played in the street.

It's an ordinary scene that all of us have experienced and it's because it's so ordinary that it's so remarkable. When it boils down to it, we all need friends, family, a safe home and a community that welcomes us, no matter who we are or where we come from.

That's what Jo Cox meant when she said 'we have more in common than that which divides us' and that's what I'll be remembering this Refugee Week.