“The family was my motivation. So the admin and paperwork for the application were just tools to accomplish the goal: to get the family to the UK.” – Kathy Pavid
On 15th March 2011 life changed for the majority of Syria’s population. The Syrian war has displaced 12 million Syrians and forced 5,7 million of them to become refugees (Norwegian Refugee Council, 2019). UNHCR states that 151,000 Syrian refugees are in need of resettlement.
Through our Refugee Response initiative and through Hillsong’s partnership with the Home Office, we have been able to resettle three Syrian families through the Community Sponsorship scheme and are in the process of welcoming another four families.
We welcomed our second refugee family to the UK in January this year, thanks to the volunteering spirit of Hillsong Guildford as they came together as a campus to make this happen. One of the volunteers is Kathy Pavid who played her part in raising the funds needed to make the sponsorship of our second Syrian family a reality.
When the world was faced with the picture of a small boy washed up on a Turkish beach, it struck a chord with Kathy as she has two small children of her own, and she truly wanted to do something.
As Hillsong church we welcomed our first Syrian family to the UK in 2017. Once they had settled, our team made a short video of them sharing about their home, showing pictures of Syria before the war and then devastating photos after the bombing. At the end of the video, Kathy felt the nudge that she needed, when pastor Kalleigh spoke about needing 36 people giving £20 a month to sponsor another Syrian family to come to the UK.
A campus coming together
“In terms of fundraising I thought I can do that! I know enough people and we can raise the funds”. And with that Kathy started reaching out to people in her world; church friends, school mums, friends around the world on Facebook. They first aimed for 36 people giving £20 a month for two years, however, ended up pledging for 100 people giving £10 a month for two years as more people could then afford to get involved. And the goal was reached.
With six weeks left they had to get the house ready, and over 40 volunteers gave up their weekends to transform the house into a home. Fortunately the house didn’t need much indoor renovation, so the energy was spent on the garden installing fake lawn, evergreen plants and new fences. Lots of time was also spent on building furniture, and when the final day came it was spent on decorating, hanging up curtains, making beds and unpacking groceries.
Application and paperwork
When Kathy raised her hand to help financially, she had no idea how involved she would end up being. She would be playing a major part in the application process with the council and Home Office. Kathy emphasises that in regards to the process with the Home Office, Hillsong Guildford is fortunate to have a great relationship with Woking Council who need to approve a family joining the borough through the Community Sponsorship scheme.
Kathy shares that the Home Office asks you to complete a comprehensive plan of the support you will be providing, which forms a part of your application. As a church, we had submitted an application for the first Syrian family we sponsor, so Kathy and team had a plan to work with and adapt. When they knew where the family would be based, the team could research the area to find schools, grocery stores, public transport, GPs, dentists etc.
January 2019 came, and after nine months of doing hours of admin, the application and paper work, it started to feel real when Kathy and other volunteers were waiting for the family at the airport. They got there early with a flag, a sign in the Syrian colours with their family name in Arabic, and two of the young men from the first Syrian family joined the team that day as part of the support. Kathy and team saw the family – mum, dad, two sons and one daughter, arrive and teared up as it dawned on them that all the months of paperwork and preparation has led to this precious moment of the family arriving.
Life in the UK
The first couple of weeks were very busy with a lot of meetings, showing the family around the local area, shopping for groceries, showing them how to use public transport, and the walk to school and English classes. The children were introduced to their school and classmates, and have already made some sweet friends. Volunteers are helping twice a week to bring the kids to school when the parents are in English classes, where mum and dad are getting to know other families in the area. “We also had a successful first evaluation with the Home Office and the family told them that they are well and we are like family now”, Kathy shares.
As a church we are so happy to see the family has settled in well and are incredibly proud of our team who helped make this all possible!
At the moment of writing, we have just welcomed a third family to Newcastle and we are in the process of resettling 4 more families with Hillsong Oxford, Bermondsey, Edinburgh and Reading. If you want to play your part in supporting these families, by making a donation or getting involved with Refugee Response, please visit: Hillsong.co.uk/RefugeeResponse