This Christmas we gave all the guys from our refugee football project a present, and what's better than a size 5 football? Here, Alastair Colin-Jones shares his experiences of the project:
It can be all too easy to make serving and loving others a complex affair - something that gives us admin headaches and concerns about how it will all pan out. While the Refugee Football and Food project has certainly caused a few admin headaches (ask Matt Renshaw), the heart of these Thursday evenings is quite simple: it is about having fun, being yourself, and enjoying football and food. Doesn't sound that difficult, right?
Primarily, these are young men and boys who have stories that would both shock and horrify us. It would be a mistake to think that once they reach the UK the problems and difficulties they face are more or less over. In fact, even if not life threatening in the same way as their journey, adjusting to their new surroundings and dealing with significant language barriers is only the surface of the deep emotional stress of being so far from anyone or anything familiar. That is why something so simple like playing football and providing food has been such an effective way to build relationships. Communication can be difficult, but everyone can laugh at an attempted step-over gone wrong, or a ballooned finish miles high of the goal (mentioning no names, of course). And at Christmas of all times, everyone knows that a full stomach makes the heart happy.
Honestly, it could be anyone providing the football venue and kit; and it could be anyone providing the food, but in this case it is our privilege to be loving and serving these young refugees, so let's keep at it.