Date: 1st September 2017
I have been a foster carer for TACT for 9 years now, mainly fostering asylum seeking young boys from Afghanistan.
When they come to me they are very tired, frightened and traumatised from the horrific and epic journey they have made to get to the UK. Stressed and unable to communicate properly with me, due to a lack of English, all they want is food, drink and a bed.
All these young boys are Muslim and asylum seekers from Afghanistan. As a white, non-Muslim foster carer I make sure that I understand and help them to fulfil their religious and cultural needs. It is hard enough being displaced from your own family and community without being unable to retain your cultural identity.
The right food, clothing, and social opportunities are important day to day things that I make sure are available to them. The do not eat pork, and as their carer I make sure they can have Halal food. They pray up to five times a day, so I always have the Koran and a prayer mat ready for them. I also make it possible for them to go to the local mosque as much as they want to.
We celebrate Eid together, which is the equivalent of my Christmas. It is a happy day for the boys and for that reason it is a happy day for me too. They dress in traditional Afghan clothing and socialise with their other Muslim friends.
Eid can also be a time tinged with sadness, as they cannot celebrate with their families and friends who are in Afghanistan, so I provide them with as much love and reassurance as I can. As a foster carer, providing a loving, secure and supportive home to these boys is as important as meeting their religious needs.
I also actively teach them to speak English so that they are equipped to make the most of going to school and making new friends. I have found that getting an education is something the boys really relish. So far all of my boys have gone on to attend college and they have done so well for themselves. I am incredibly proud of them.
Shawali went to university and is now a civil engineer with letters after his name. He is proof that Muslim unaccompanied asylum seeking children can thrive and succeed in foster care, regardless of the religious or cultural background of their foster carers.
I get very upset when it is time for the boys to move on. I treat them as my own, as I am all they have. I will always be there for all of them. They all visit me every week, never miss my birthday or Mother’s Day. I am Nanny to their children and I also played ‘Mum’ at their weddings. I nearly burst with pride to see my lovely boys marry.
I feel so lucky that I was given the opportunity to care and help these boys. The fact that they are Muslim is just that, a fact, not a problem. Foster carers are trained to provide care which respects a child’s ethnic, religious and cultural background. And along with care, consistency, expertise and love, fostering can transform children’s lives and help them heal from the trauma they have suffered and go on and achieve their potential.