4th July 2022

Some of us remember what it was like when as children we moved to another town, and how we felt at first in our new school, where everyone seemed to know everyone else and wondered what you, a stranger, were doing in ‘their’ class. Imagine what it’s like if, in addition, you’ve come halfway round the world, knowing very little English and totally unaccustomed to English ways. Such was Dominic who recently arrived from Nicaragua in Central America, to start life in Lewisham, London: a big cultural shift! Or even more so Nazar, a refugee boy from Ukraine who has arrived at the same school. No doubt he and his parents are mightily relieved to be out of immediate danger, but the sense of having lost so much, and not knowing when if ever they will be able to return or rebuild their lives, must be formidable.

The school in Lewisham has a policy to help such children settle in and begin to feel part of a new community. No grandiose programmes but Nazar, like Dominic before him, for his first few weeks was deliberately placed to sit with a boy called Tom: quiet, conscientious, a bit on the shy side himself but known for his helpfulness to others, someone who could be a sign that life here can be good, with people who can be trusted and become friends. No big publicity splash about it. I only know of it because Tom is our grandson. ‘I was a stranger, and you welcomed me’ (Matthew 25: 35). A healing world? ‘A little child shall lead them’ (Isaiah 11:6).

Keith Clements