Community effort to house refugee family in Waltham Forest

Funds raised to provide home for Syrian refugees, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

A family of Syrian refugees will find a new home in Waltham Forest thanks to a huge community effort.

Waltham Forest Community Sponsorship Partnership (WFCSP) raised £19,000 to fund a family of five – two parents and three children – moving to Leyton at the end of February.

The family are originally from the city of Aleppo but were forced to flee Syria in 2012 by the country’s civil war and have been refugees in Lebanon ever since.

WFCSP was set up three years ago by Waltham Forest Council of Mosques (WFCOM) and Leyton Sixth Form College and hopes to support more refugees in future.

Iftakhar Latif, of the Faizan-e-Islam Mosque in Corbett Road, says he hopes the wider community will come together to support the family get settled in the borough.

He said: “We saw the war in Syria on our screens and we felt quite helpless because there was not much we could do. This scheme was finally something the community could get involved in.

“It’s easier to support an Arabic or Muslim family [in Waltham Forest] because we have more than 60,000 Muslims in the borough, many Arabic speakers and restaurants with halal food, we’re very fortunate.

“We felt that this was a project that would bring the wider community together, we don’t want to just make this a Muslim project. We have teachers, housewives, accountants and people from all sorts of different backgrounds involved. 

“People have been extremely generous. We went round the mosques and raised about £15,000 and the college did lots of activities like bake sales and sponsored runs and raised £4,000.

“Everybody is really keen to help as much as they can. Whether we need uniforms, tablets or places at school, as soon as we approach people they have just been amazing.”

The family’s rent will be paid by WFCSP for two years and the partnership will support them in learning English and getting settled during their first 12 months.

The couple, their two teenagers and nine-year-old, are just a handful of the millions of refugees forced to flee Syria by the war, which began in 2011 and continues today.

Their home city of Aleppo was the site of one of the most destructive battles, which lasted from July 2012 until December 2016 and was marked by widespread violence against civilians.  More than 31,000 people were killed and 33,500 buildings either damaged or completely destroyed over the course of four years.

WFCSP project manager Mumtaz Patel added: “I have been working with refugees for eight or nine years and have built up close relationships and learnt about the horrors they lived through.

“What you see on the news is quite distressing but, when you speak to these people and get to know them, it makes it so much more real.”

She said there were a number of ways people could get involved, which include helping to decorate the house, providing a minibus to pick the family up from the airport or fundraising for future projects.

Separately, Waltham Forest Council agreed in 2015 to welcome ten refugee families as part of the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, with the first arriving in 2017.

For more information about WFCSP: