Refugee Week (19-25 June 2017) is a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and encourages a better understanding of why people seek sanctuary.
The founding ethos of Cardinal Hume Centre is to provide welcome, sanctuary and hospitality to people of all backgrounds. We work with many people who for a variety of reasons are seeking sanctuary, some of whom are refugees. In the recent past this has included unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and at the moment, we have 12 young people (16-18 yrs) living in our residential services who have fled countries such as Sudan, Syria, Eritrea and Lebanon and have travelled on their own to the UK. These young people arrive with nothing; no family, friends, or possessions – and usually with little or no English.
One such young person is Henok* who is from rural Eritrea. Henok ran away to escape enforced military service and endured a harrowing journey across Africa and then by sea into Europe. When we first started working with Henok it was difficult to find an interpreter because of his native dialect. He was very isolated and displayed a range of behavioural and emotional issues. He found it hard to communicate and share with other cultures. However, over time, and with the consistency of support from his keyworker, he developed resilience and trust and told us: “This is heaven for me – to be safe and to be asleep all night.” As well as going to college, he has been having intensive English classes at Cardinal Hume Centre with our ESOL tutor, Richard Gallen which has led to a great improvement in Henok’s understanding of English. “The classes help me. I can practise and ask questions. I want more English. English is like food for me!” he says.
As well as accessing a range of opportunities through the services at Cardinal Hume Centre, including work from our immigration team to secure his status as a refugee and right to remain in the country, Henok has also participated in projects with the British Red Cross and CARAS (Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers). He loves London and enjoys exploring the city on his bicycle. As he approaches his 18th birthday, he is now moving on from Cardinal Hume Centre to more independent living. He has lots of plans – to be a doctor, to make music and many more. We wish you all the best in the future, Henok, whatever it holds, and hope you will keep in touch with us.