Could you take an innocent child who has escaped the ravages of war under your wing?
That’s the question Swindon Borough Council is asking residents following the national Government’s recent commitment to help more unaccompanied asylum seeking children from other European countries resettle in the UK.
Along with other local councils across the country, Swindon has agreed to try and assist with this pressing need, which seeks to give these vulnerable children, predominantly teenage boys displaced from countries such as Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iran and Syria, a much-deserved second chance in life. The council is therefore now appealing to people’s greater conscience to see if they can open up their hearts and homes to help by providing a supported lodgings placement.
The children may have been separated from their parents by war, while others have been orphaned. They are extremely vulnerable, with many having experienced trauma and being at serious risk of exploitation, sexual violence, disease and cold in their current situation.
Border local authorities, such as Kent, are unable to manage the number of children in need, which is why all Local Authorities have been asked to step in and help with regional transfer arrangements. Government funding has been made available to cover in-borough placement costs.
Ira Muir, aged 56, from Swindon town centre, used to work for the Harbour Project, which provides aid to refugees and asylum seekers, and ended up fostering a 15-year-old boy called Abdul who she met through the charity.
Ira, who has two grown-up daughters, said: “I can honestly say it was one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done. Abdul had no family and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder having witnessed terrible atrocities in his homeland Sudan. We were discussing his next steps and I just casually said he could live with me because I was living on my own and had a spare room. That marked the start of my fostering journey, which has changed my life in such a wonderful way.”
After staying with Ira for four years the 19-year-old has since spread his own wings and is living independently in Old Town.
She said: “He had to learn English from scratch and is now studying at college – he has come so far, it’s incredible. We talk to each other every day – he’s so lovely and still calls me mum. I feel so privileged to have played a part in his life and helped someone who was once so vulnerable become a young man with everything going for him.”
Abdul said: “Ira is fantastic – it feels like she’s my real mum because she’s so gentle and kind. She is so special to me, I can’t even say how much.”
Age, sexuality, marital status and whether or not you have children of your own are no barrier to becoming a supported lodgings carer. Carers receive free full training and ongoing support, as well as payment and allowances to help cover their time and expenses. Placements vary in duration from a few months to several years.
Cllr Fionuala Foley, Swindon Borough Council Cabinet Member for Children Services, said: “I am appealing to all residents to search their hearts and ask if they could help. These children are very vulnerable and find themselves in this awful situation through no fault of their own. Swindon, like other local authorities, cannot stand by and not try to help – we have a moral duty to step in and provide compassionate aid if at all possible. Supported lodgings carers who have supported people in these circumstances say how rewarding it is and how special it feels to be making such a big difference to these children’s lives. So if you think you could take on this role, please do come forward or spread the word to others who may be interested.”
For more information, please call: (01793) 464329 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured: Ira and Abdul