There has only been one moment when eight-year-old Mohamad talked about returning to Syria. It was when snow fell in his country last winter for the first time in 25 years.
“Mohamad wanted to go back to Syria for just long enough to build a snowman,” said his mother Ola Faaour, 28. “Then he wanted to immediately return to his new home, here in Shropshire.”
It is the first anniversary of refugees Ola and Mohamad’s new life in Wem, a small rural town in Shropshire. They arrived here at the same time as a second family of Syrian refugees – Maher Al Melhem, 33, Nidaa Al Ahlab, 26, their sons Oday, nine, Qosay, eight and Zahraa, two, exactly one year ago.
Nidaa Al Ahlab and Maher Al Melhem initially thought they would be able to return home after fleeing to Lebanon.” alt=”Nidaa Al Ahlab and Maher Al Melhem initially thought they would be able to return home after fleeing to Lebanon.” data-credit=”Chris Gorman” data-portal-copyright=”Chris Gorman” data-provider=”Other” data-provider-asset-id=”205900849″ data-has-syndication-rights=”false”>
Both families fled Homs, Syria’s third largest city. Even without the devastating conflict there it would be hard to find two more contrasting parts of the world. In 2004 Homs had a population of more than 652,000, along with elegant tree-lined boulevards, bustling markets and elaborately designed mosques. Meanwhile Wem nestles in stunning countryside and is home to just over 5,000 people.
Before the Syrian conflict began Homs was an area where Sunnis, Alawites and Christians lived harmoniously together. Wem is a largely white area, most famous for its cultivation of sweet peas. There are no mosques in the area but Wem has four churches.
“This is a traditional white community,” said Sue Matthews, coordinator of the Wem Welcome Group which has been supporting both families. “I think the last time we had any new arrivals was when evacuees from Liverpool came here during the Second World War and then decided to stay on afterwards.”
It is testament to both the local community who have welcomed the new arrivals with open arms and the families themselves who are eager to learn English, work, study and adopt English customs, that they have integrated so well over the last twelve months.
The families are among 63 refugees who have arrived in Shropshire since June 2016 as part of the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS).
According to the Home Office, 20,000 people in need of protection will be resettled in the UK by 2020 under this …read more
Source:: The Huffington Post – UK Tec