by Mary Coffey AMMM Ireland 20.07.2023
Four years ago, our community welcomed a Syrian family to our little town of Kells, through a Community Sponsorship model. Fedaa Alsultan and her husband Ahmed moved to Lebanon in 2011, soon after the outbreak of the war. They expected that it would all be over within six months and that they could return to their home in Idlib, in north-western Syria. Instead, they were gradually joined by their extended families, and their three beautiful children. Maysa, Kays and Tasnim were all born in Lebanon. In 2019 they accepted a UNHCR offer of resettlement, for the sake of their children, but for Fedaa, it was a high price to pay as she was filled with grief and sorrow, and guilt for having abandoned her family in Lebanon.
About a year after they came to Ireland Fedaa was in my kitchen one day and she was admiring the roses in my garden. She told me about her mother’s roses in Syria; that her mother used to have red roses, pink roses, yellow roses, orange roses and white roses. And then she started to sob. I mentioned the story of the roses to my friend, Ellen, who is also in our sponsorship group, and I loved the insight of her reply. She said that, because our images of Syria are only of bombed out cities and of refugee camps, it is really important to tell the story of the roses, and I have often done so.
Fedaa was not the only one to be grieved. Kays, when he was only about four, used to get upset when he saw a plane in the air. He would think that his Granny was in it, that she was looking for them and didn’t know where to find them. We began to advocate to bring Fedaa’s parents and her three teenaged siblings to Ireland, but we met a lot of opposition. Strangely, Community Sponsorship is not meant to facilitate family re-unification. The children were aware that something was going on and one day Maysa said to me “Mary, if I give you my piggy-bank will you bring my granny to Ireland?”
Eventually, after a lot of heartache and disappointment Fedaa’s parents, Moufida and Hatem, with their two teenaged sons, Ibaa and Omran, and their daughter, Ranim, arrived last year. It was a very joyful reunion and they also met their newest grandchild, Sam, who had been born in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda five weeks earlier. The settling in process