Afghan refugee families welcomed by Finsbury Park Mosque
Zahra Suleiman, community worker
- Credit: Zahra Suleiman
An event was held at Finsbury Park Mosque to support and welcome newly arrived Afghan refugee families in Islington. Community worker and former refugee Zahra Suleiman reports.
From 11.30am to 4pm, we provided food in the morning such as fruits, water, juices, biscuits, and chocolates that were already on the tables. Activities for the children included face painting, table tennis, arts and crafts as well as Henna paintings.
They felt happy and welcomed. In the afternoon we provided lunch, the Afghan parents joined in and interacted very well with the volunteers and each other in a friendly and warm environment.
Later in the day, a round table discussion took place between the parents and event organisers, who are community workers with an understanding of local resources and services available in the borough.
The discussion included topics around schools, health centres and GP practices, shops, local resources and areas that mattered to them.
I was moved by the conversations because it triggered memories of when I came to London thirty years ago in 1991, as a refugee mother with children at a time when there were no local charities and support set up for people like me.
I was once nearly evicted because no one told me to fill in a housing benefit application form. Being able to share this experience meant that these refugees didn’t have to go through that.
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The event was organised by a number of local community organisations including Finsbury Park Mosque, Janaty Women organisation, Minority Matters, and Galbur Foundation.
Many volunteers, some as young as 12, turned up to participate and welcome around 55 Afghan families to Finsbury Park Mosque.
The adult males, led by volunteer Sadiq, went on a small trip to Arsenal football stadium.
One of the fathers said: “Thank you very much for the lovely time you arranged for all the families."
The women received a variety of gifts including clothes that have been organised and distributed by Janaty Women Organisation at a hall in the Finsbury Park Trust building.
At the end of the event held on December 18, the children received gifts, pieces of jewellery in goody bags and surprise packages.
Zahra Suleiman is a community worker.