To kick off 2019, Refugees at Home host Belinda Drake and her guest Adbullah Ahmadi were featured in The Guardian talking about their lives together.
While Belinda had a spare room when her children left for university, Adbullah, originally from Afghanistan had left his home at 13 and been homeless in his teens after arriving in the UK.
Their story highlights the wonderful work our hosts do, and the incredible connections that are forged when you welcome a stranger into your home.
Belinda Drake, 60
Like many people, my husband and I saw what was happening in Calais and felt a need to do something. Our children had gone to university, so we had space in the house. Refugees At Home promised that anybody who came to us would be properly vetted, and they offered us a lot of support – we didn’t do it alone.
When he moved in, Abdullah was in a very bad way emotionally. He sat on the sofa with his head bowed. He’s the same age as my eldest daughter, and I felt very motherly towards him. I felt that my daughters or I could easily be in his position, too.
Now he’s a member of the family and I’ve got back so much more than I’ve given. Hosting refugees increases your family size, your support network, and it makes you more understanding and respectful of other cultures and religions. It’s even made me more proud to be British.
Abdullah Ahmadi, 25
I grew up in Afghanistan. My family were shot in the war when I was 13. I had to leave.
I reached England when I was 17, but I wasn’t allowed to work and was homeless by 18. I slept rough for four months, then the charity Refugee Support Network found me. They sent me to Refugees At Home, which is how I met Belinda.
She has changed my life. For a long time, I withdrew from other people – I didn’t want to talk to anyone and just wanted to be alone. There were times I felt suicidal.
Belinda encouraged me to speak to people. She made me feel part of a family again. Before I met her, I felt hopeless. Now I am more confident, more open. I call her “Mum”. Because of her, I have found myself again. Because of her, I have hope.