Their flight from the war-ravaged towns of Syria to the safety of a North London suburb.
Prior to the war in Syria the Taha family had a wonderful life. The father owned and ran a successful bakery, and they lived in a beautiful house in a prosperous part of town with their three boys. The oldest and the youngest had been diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome – a genetic condition that can cause learning difficulties. But they were coping well despite the oldest son being very severely affected.
Then, when the youngest son turned six, he became very ill and was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma – cancer of the soft tissue. They started treatment in their local hospital – which, at the time, had excellent facilities for treating this type of cancer – but war broke out and very quickly engulfed their town. It became impossible for fresh supplies to get through and slowly everything started to close down, the schools, the bakery and eventually the local hospital – the child could no longer get the cancer treatment he needed.
Things got much worse when Daesh (ISIS) took over the region and their lives were in serious danger. They sold what they could (the children’s grandmother sold her jewelry, the only precious thing she had – once they left, she knew she would never see them again) and they started the terrible journey from town to town looking for treatment, for food, for shelter and for safety.
It’s hard to imagine what they must have gone through – not being able to protect your children – not being able to find the treatment for your child’s cancer – trying to hide them from the horror of the war and knowing that either side of the conflict would kill them without a second thought.
They had no idea how to get to the Turkish border, what to expect or how to escape – just the overwhelming instinct to protect their family. A harrowing journey, much of it by foot, eventually brought them to the border and they used all the money they had left to be smuggled out – over the border and onto a flight to Cyprus and then a flight to the UK. When they arrived in London they had no idea where they were – none of them spoke English. They were completely reliant on the kindness of strangers.
They were granted temporary asylum, their youngest was assessed and was able to start treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital. However, with no money (it can take months for any kind of government assistance to start) they found themselves isolated, alone and hungry and living in terrible accommodation – cramped and damp. The authorities were pressed into finding them an alternative.
They were moved several times and finally appropriate accommodation was found for them in Dagenham. However, they had hardly any furniture and no money for food, clothes or money to pay for travel to see their son in hospital.
In June 2017 we received a submission on our website asking us to help. Through their Clic-Sargent social worker at the hospital, we made an initial grant of £1,000 to cover their most urgent needs.
Over the past year we have been able to provided money for food, clothes and travel, and items for their home, including a TV, computer, microwave, pots and pans and other essentials. The treatment for cancer came to an end this year and the whole family, enjoyed a wonderful week at one of our caravans in Selsey, West Sussex.