My life as an empty-nester has taken a delightful turn with the arrival in my central London flat of a 27-year-old refugee from Eritrea.
I wrestled for months with the idea of giving up my spare room to a refugee, desperate to help but nervous, as a single woman, of inviting a stranger into my home. The charity that placed him with me, Refugees at Home, was reassuring, but said ultimately it was a leap of faith and I would just have to trust him. I’m so glad I did. Youssef is industrious, helpful, funny, quiet, kind and smart. He has learnt to make a mean cup of tea and won over my standoffish cat. He is learning English at college as a prelude to studying to become an electrician. Friends say variously that I am mad, brave or a saint, but I am none of these. In fact, I regard myself as the winner in this relationship as it’s impossible not to be infected by his positive attitude and motivation to do well for himself and the family he left behind.
The most poignant reaction came from a friend, himself an immigrant, who tells me: you are not just helping one person, you are helping a whole family, possibly a village. So now, to those who ask why on earth would you do this, my answer is simple: why ever not?