A birthday treat after a successful distribution
I met Abdul a couple of weeks ago during one of our visits to a London hotel. At 21 he’s roughly the same age as my own son, so I naturally gravitated towards him. He is all alone in the UK, so I think he was searching for a motherly figure to comfort him too. We instantly clicked.
He is a quiet, sad-looking young man from Sierra Leone. He showed me some shocking photos of his hometown – it’s in such a terrible state. It’s clear that he carries so much trauma with him.
But Abdul is also an incredibly intelligent and determined young man. When we met, he asked me for writing paper and non-fiction books about Europe and Britain so he could learn a bit more about his environment. Since he isn’t allowed to work yet, all he wants to do is learn about our culture.
When I came back to the hotel this Saturday to give him some books during our first large distribution there, he mentioned that it’s his birthday on Wednesday. I thought of my own son and the anguish I would feel if he were celebrating his birthday alone in a strange place, with no family or friends to spend the day with. It broke my heart.
I’ve decided to treat him to lunch and a much-needed visit to the barber on Wednesday. Abdul is conscious of his appearance, like any young lad of his age, and desperately wants a hair trim and a shave to feel clean and tidy again. Giving him that is the least I can do as a birthday gift for someone who has been in the UK since March but is still completely in the dark about what his future will look like in just a few weeks’ time.
Abdul was one of around 300 people who we helped this weekend at the hotel. Though some volunteers have been visiting regularly, this was our first proper distribution – and I’m so thrilled with how it went. We distributed lots of clothes for men, women and children, as well as shoes – you can never have enough trainers, it seems!
It was difficult at first because there were hundreds of people there, so controlling the crowd can be tough. It’s especially hard having to say ‘no’ to people after we run out of things that they desperately needed.
But it all becomes worth it when you see someone beaming with happiness after they receive a warm jacket for the winter ahead or some football boots to play with. Several people even sent us some lovely texts yesterday thanking us for our help. These small acts of kindness are what keeps us going.
– written by Carol Hancock, a volunteer
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