The story of an Afghan rug
The other day a lady got in touch with me to say she’d seen a story in our local paper, about Care4Calais and the help we give to refugees in our nearby town of Reading.
She explained that she had a rug that she wanted to donate to an Afghan refugee family, with a wonderful story of how she had acquired it.
“This rug has great sentimental significance. It was given to us by an old Afghan friend who worked in Kabul in a senior advisory role to the Americans . It was a high-powered job.
“A few years ago he fell ill in Afghanistan, and came over to the UK to convalesce with us for a few weeks. He spent a long time telling us about Afghanistan and their traditions, and at one point told us about a good friend of his called Khaled Hosseini, who was writing a book called The Kite Runner. We were interested, and in the end my husband helped to proof read the book for him. Of course we didn’t know then that it would become such a worldwide success.
“When he recovered our friend went back to Afghanistan, but a few weeks later, a present arrived, wrapped up in hemp; a beautiful traditional Afghan rug.
“We have a large house, and we enjoyed having the rug there. But then we downsized, and soon after that, I heard about the Afghans coming to the UK. And I just knew that our rug needed to make at least one family feel at home.” [Her old friend, incidentally, had retired some time before, and left Afghanistan, so was not in danger.]
At this I felt a rush of emotion at the thought of someone caring so much about making a newly-arrived family happy.
That same day I went to see my daughter Sam, who runs the Care4Calais Reading hub, and I told her the story of the rug. Ah, she said; I have the very family for it.
The next day, Sam and I took the rug to a lovely Afghan family – mum, dad and their 11-month-old baby – who had been allocated a small apartment; they were utterly delighted with it. You can imagine how much it must have meant to them, and it was wonderful to see this rug, with all its warm associations of friendship becoming a symbol of welcome to a new family.
The next week, the lady came back.
This time she had six suitcases, all in excellent condition, and to be donated to refugees. We chatted for some time about our work with Care4Calais, and I felt she might be back with more donations. In fact she returned for a coffee and chat, and plans to work with us on a kite-flying event, as she the Afghan children and their fathers would excel at that. She thought it would make them feel more at home and showing our school children here more about Afghan culture.
That’s one of the wonderful things about volunteering with Care4Calais; when you come together to share compassion, you bond quickly, and the kindness seems to multiply.
To donate or volunteer visit https://care4calais.org