News‎ > ‎

Lambeth Refugees

On Sunday 20 August, Mother Helen and I had a wonderful Sunday morning hosting Rev David Longe, chaplain to the Archbishop of Jerusalem, and then dashed out of the door leaving our visiting preacher to bid farewell to the congregation. We sped (literally, mother Helen “driving”) to Battersea Park where we were hosting a picnic for 12 of the refugee families who have been settled in Lambeth over the last 8 months.

As many of you are aware, CHS is involved in the Lambeth Refugees Welcome program established by members of Lambeth Citizens UK.

Citizens UK is a community organizing group that supports communities in making a difference in areas they care about.
Fortunately for us, many of you care about our refugees.

We had no idea how many would be coming but we ended up with 29 children ranging from 3 to 17 – I lost count of the grown-ups.  

We sang, we played, we laughed, we cried, some of us got lost and then were found (Hallelujah), we ate, we ate some more and then some more.  Most of the families are from Syria with a few from Iraq.    They love to cook and share food: there were flat breads, shawarma, falafel, almond loaf, biryani, nuts and seeds and plenty of dates and Kawa Arabia – strong black coffee made with cardamom.  There were some arguments about which region produced the best coffee (we didn’t care so long as we got to drink some) and who made the best flat breads – Muna – by popular (Vicar’s) vote.

The children have very different levels of English, a number have significant disabilities, they were all a complete joy – chaotic and loud – but a joy nonetheless.   We hired bikes for 17 of them and experienced the extreme stress that comes from being in charge of a large group of children some of whom clearly cannot ride a bike, half of whom have absolutely no idea what you are yelling at them and the other half  don’t care! 

Once we had corralled them all together we headed off in search of ice cream – all the kids - including those with no English, running or in wheelchairs, and those who had previously ignored every word we said listened carefully, lined up in a proper British Queue and mastered the words: strawberry, chocolate and cone.  

We had an amazing day -  the families are enormously welcoming, joyful, generous.  They are so, so, so grateful for all that is being done for them.

Due to your generosity we have recently been able to provide some of the families with blenders, microwaves and TVs as well as toys and clothes and furniture.  AT the moment we are looking for another TV and a full-sized bed for a disabled child (plus bedding).

On Friday I took four of them to the Ace of Clubs whose bike mechanic, Sean (a thousand thanks be upon him), has fixed-up second-hand bikes for them: of course they all want one now … 

Shukraan (thank you) so much for your generosity ‘alf Shakar (a thousand thank yous) and Layubarkuk Aalrub (May God bless you) 

السلام عليكمas-sa-laa-mu-`a-lay-kum - Peace be with you

Mother Ruth