A Lenten Journey

Lent is traditionally a time for reflection – for thinking about the difference we can make in the world, and in our own lives. Jenny Hazelden reflects here on her work as an English language teacher at the Cardinal Hume Centre:

I work with vulnerable asylum-seeking children, many of whom have tragically lost family members to war or imprisonment. They are some of the bravest individuals you will ever meet.

Alsadek’s journey to this day has been unbearably hard. He comes from Sudan and knows first-hand the horrors of crossing the Mediterranean in a leaking boat and seeing people lose their lives along the way. While he misses his family dreadfully, you would be amazed at his endurance and his enthusiasm for learning.

He is determined not to be a burden; he wants one day to be an engineer. His first lesson with me was in March 2019 and he continues to come because, in his own words, ‘I’m feeling I improve with you. You really, really help me.’

The Cardinal Hume Centre helps give children like Alsadek a home where they can recover from the trauma of the journey and find their feet in an unfamiliar country, with an unfamiliar culture. A warm room and a bathroom with running water is a million miles from a refugee camp or sleeping on the streets of Westminster. Here, they can begin a new journey that is filled with hope and possibilities.

As Cardinal Hume said, ‘Each person matters. No human life is redundant.’

A cooking class in our Hostel, as part of our Life Skills programme

Each child who moves into our Hostel is given a ‘welcome pack’ to help them settle in and gain a sense of ownership and autonomy. Something as simple as a set of bed linen, and cooking equipment to use in one of the hostel’s kitchens, can really help our young residents to start rebuilding their lives.

Once the child has settled in, he or she can begin learning how to navigate day-to-day life in a new country. I provide language lessons here at the Centre in a one-to-one setting, with the content tailored to each student’s needs. Because so many of these young people live daily with levels of anxiety that make concentration difficult, it is vital that they work at their own pace in a relaxed atmosphere that allows them to learn and grow.

Another of my students is Nassereddine, a quiet Sudanese lad with a winning smile. When he arrived at the Cardinal Hume Centre he had very little English but a determination to make the most of every opportunity. Extremely shy at first and reluctant to speak more than a few words in English classes, he has visibly gained both language proficiency and confidence.

Now he has moved on from the Centre and is doing well at college where he is studying English and Maths. In his own words, ‘Now my language has improved and I can look after myself, I want to study hard at college so I can find a good job‘.

The kindness and generosity of our supporters helps us to give these wonderful young people the safe and comfortable home that they deserve. It encourages them to keep going even when it is tough.

Living in our hostel – where they can meet other residents, dedicated staff and volunteers at the Centre – children who have been homeless at such a young age can begin a new journey of independence, self-discovery and friendship.