One Family’s Experience of MOAS Family Hosting Project
Family Hosting Project, one year later
In December last year, MOAS launched the Family Hosting Project, a pilot initiative where Maltese families can welcome migrants into their homes, supporting them with their education and helping them integrate into Maltese society. After finding our first Host Family and providing a technology pack, MOAS conducted mentoring and regular monitoring activities, to provide support, guidance and mediation as needed and to evaluate how the project was progressing. Joanna and her partner, Henry, have opened the doors of their house in Valletta to Samuel, a 21-years-old asylum seeker from South Sudan. During his time with the family, Samuel continued with his academic studies in pursuit of his dream to become a doctor.
As the host period draws to a close, we have interviewed Joanna and Henry to discuss the experience and its impact on the host family.
Here is the interview with Joanna and Henry:
What drew you to the idea of joining the Family Hosting Project, and why did you take such an important and inspiring decision?
Joanna: The idea of sharing our house, spare room and lives with someone who has no home has always been on our minds.
We also have had Au pairs living with us mostly from Northern Europe and North America, but when their yearly stay was about to end, we wondered why we had to look so far when there are plenty of asylum seekers here who might benefit from the Au pair arrangement. I asked a number of NGOs and discussed the idea with my friend Regina Catrambone, co-founder and director of MOAS who told me they had been working to start the Family Hosting project! The fact that MOAS would support the arrangement with both functional things like providing our Au pair with technologies (such as a tablet and Internet connection) but also with mentoring and providing access to a social worker made the idea seem even more feasible.
We met Sam several times and got to know each other before he finally made the decision and we were delighted when he accepted to become part of our family for a year.
How has this experience impacted your family?
Joanna: Sam is a young man with big dreams and a lot of exposure to unfair forces in this world. He was a great big brother to our children, Leila and Peppi, playing football for hours a day, learning Maltese together with them.
To live with a person that has gone through so much… and learn of the extraordinary overwhelming intensity of his journey to Malta. A person who has had to flee his home, live in a camp for internally displaced people, and to have made that journey, lasting one year and seven months, as a teenager all to look for a safe place to study, is eye-opening, humbling, and exposes our privilege and how desensitized we have become as a society.
We became more deeply aware of how wonderfully hospitable our neighbours, friends and family are, and of how kind and warm-hearted most people are even though a small amount of persons spew empty vessel hatred on social media intended to hurt and scare persons innocently seeking a better life, never bothering to understand what desperation led to persons to risk everything in search of a better future.
What are your fondest memories of this experience together?
Joanna: Many long conversations where we learnt more about South Sudanese history and culture will remain ingrained in my memory forever. Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt, and phenomenal architecture and an interesting history. It’s turbulent recent history with a fight for independence that left up to a third of its population dead, as well as the tribal warfare that ensued which even saw Sam’s father killed and resulted in the displacement of so many people is a tragic reminder of why so many persons flee.
While living with us Sam discovered many new things. We discussed books, and new culinary discoveries but possibly the best memories will be his hours of playing football with Peppi!
Henry: We were cooking together, he actually received a Simple Cooking book from our family, which he used quite a lot. It was very interesting, not only from a cuisine perspective, but also from a methodological point of view! Our favourite recipe is cheesy macaroni.
How was the relationship between Samuel and your children? And with your pet?
It was the first time we had a male Au pair and Peppi was ecstatic when we introduced them. Sam was a great morning person, and always offered help with anything that needed doing. There was always banter and giggles with both children, as they walked to their piano lessons, or to the local football field to kick balls. He was adorable with Leila who is feisty and needs a strong word or two sometimes to get ready in time for something but Sam was soft-spoken and cool. They hugged him regularly and miss him already.
Henry: 4-5 weeks after Samuel moved in, we got Bowie, a sweet puppy from the rescue centre in Floriana. They became best pals, I am sure the dog is lost now he left. A lot of good memories.
What are your plans for the future? Are you planning to participate in the Family Hosting Project again?
Joanna: When Sam decided to move on, it was bittersweet. He left a void in our home. We asked the children if they wanted another Au Pair and they said they did at least for another year, so we will certainly consider hosting someone else from the project!
What are your reflections on this experience?
Joanna: It hurt to see him go. Although it was designed as a year-long arrangement, we hoped we could stay together for longer. That being said, of course, I wish him luck and all the strength he will need to continue pursuing his dreams, study and become accomplished at whatever he wishes!
I think the local community in Malta needs to understand and admit that we all need to work together. And that communication and compassion are key to a healthy society. Seeing how comments on social media used to hurt Sam was painful. I wish we could do more to curb hate speech as individuals. And I wish the authorities would process asylum applications within stipulated time frames as dictated by human rights charters. As this is a constant source of anxiety for many persons.
From this touching interview, two of the most important aspects of the Family Hosting Project emerge: on the one hand, the importance of sharing with less fortunate people and, on the other hand, how lives are enriched through the meeting of different cultures and realities.
As we have learnt from this interview, your interactions with us represent a change and make an impact both on us and on the beneficiaries we reach each year with our projects. That is why if you have any questions, please, do not hesitate to contact us!
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