In Narbeth, Pembrokeshire, a Syrian family have settled into their new life in south west Wales thanks to the support of the local community.
The Bataks, a family of seven, arrived at Birmingham airport in summer 2017, before continuing their journey to Narbeth, about 100 miles west of Cardiff. Despite the rain, snow and cultural oddities, the Bataks have come to call the place home.
“Life is good,” 20-year-old Falak recently told the Guardian. “The people of Narberth have been very nice and kind. It feels safe for us here.”
Her younger brother, Adnan, has also fit in nicely, playing football with his new classmates and doing well in school. “The teachers are good and I have lots of friends,” he said. In an incredible show of commitment, Adnan has even ditched his beloved Barcelona in favour of supporting Liverpool, who are popular among his peers.
The Bataks were one of the first Syrian families to arrive in the UK under a community sponsorship scheme. The initiative was launched in 2016 to help grassroots groups provide a fresh start to the most vulnerable refugees, including survivors of torture and people requiring medical care.
In the case of the Bataks, a local organisation called Croeso Arbeth has played a vital role in helping the family adjust to their new home. Across the country, groups like this have contributed to the success of the government’s Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, which has seen the UK welcome 8,535 Syrian refugees so far. This number is set to increase, with the UK pledging to resettle 20,000 by 2020.
Croeso Arbeth was initially committed to helping the Bataks on a daily basis for a year and assisting with housing for two. Yet 18 months on, the family is extremely grateful that the group is still offering them a hand.
This selfless community spirit has no doubt given the Bataks confidence to pursue things that would not have seemed possible two years ago. Falak is now hoping to attend university and 15-year-old Adnan is dreaming of becoming a chef. Their father and mother, Ahmad and Safaa, are even in the process of setting up a business, Batak Syrian Food.
The Bataks also celebrated the recent arrival of its eighth member, a baby girl born to their other daughter, Lamis, and her husband, Ziead. The family view the baby as both Syrian and British.
The story of the Bataks makes one thing clear: with the support, hospitality and kindness of local people, Syrian refugees can become a valued part of their new community.