John on rewards of being a host family
We are looking to recruit host families who can help young people arriving in Scotland from a range of countries across the Middle East and North Africa as well as Vietnam. Separated from their families, the young people have experienced much hardship. Many have been living in war zones or refugee camps, victims of physical or sexual assault or trafficking. They now need a safe place they can call home to help them settle in to a new country.
Last year, John and his family became a host family for a 17-year-old Vietnamese teenager. In this blog John talks about what it’s like to be a host family, hoping to inspire other people to come forward.
“It was exactly one year ago when the young man moved to our flat and I (first alone, then together with my partner) became his host family. We started the fascinating journey of building relationships and learning about each other’s personalities and culture.
“I remember our first meeting when we were introduced to each other by social workers. He seemed to be shy, quiet and very anxious. We were chatting with the help of the interpreter. He wasn’t fluent in English, but more than this, he didn’t feel confident to speak. When he came to stay with us in the beginning he was a bit reserved but clearly happy about his new home. I remember seeing him jumping on the sofa and laughing. With time he got more relaxed and more open and was able to spend more time with us and share stories about his family and neighbourhood. We got more familiar with Vietnamese culture and food. He is a great cook and cooks for all of us from time to time – all his meals are very tasty and healthily cooked from fresh ingredients. Thanks to him we have visited more Vietnamese and Asian restaurants in Edinburgh than ever before.
“With the passing weeks and months he became more confident in his new life in Scotland, improved his English and our relationship with him became stronger. He can be more open about his emotions and thoughts. After his asylum request got accepted by the Home Office he received a travel document and that allowed us to go for some short trips and holidays abroad. These trips were always fun and I can clearly see that he is curious about the world and keen to see new places and meet new people.
One of the happiest moment was for me was the day of my recent birthday when he made a virtual birthday card for me with our pictures together from different situations with the wishes: Happy Birthday My Daddy. It meant a lot to me.
“I would also like to mention the great support we receive from the team of dedicated social workers helping us with their guidelines and advice. Apart of the usual forms of contact (meetings, phone calls and emails) with social workers, we can share with other host families during the monthly evening sessions for host families and foster carers. I find that helpful and inspiring.
“Being a host family is a fascinating and rewarding experience in which both sides – carers and young people – can learn from each other, open minds and build relationships despite cultural and language differences and life’s inevitable challenges.”
*names have been changed