source: Pixabay

Refugee experienced holiday

'A holiday for my brain', said the Palestinian mum of three Children, when she tells the story of a short break she and the kids experienced. At that time, the Palestinian family lived in uncertainty in a city near Antwerp (Belgium). The mother and her children of age 13, 8 and 6 were invited for a short holiday.


From dawn till dusk, the morther tried to negotiate the difficult road to a safe future for her family. “When the children go to school, I start with my emails, I go to my appointments, I speak with people to try and make some progress with our case. Before and after, I keep my family going,” she explains. The head and the heart become heavy from worrying. “I may look like a strong woman, but inside I am tired,” she adds.

During the Easter holidays, Hadil took the children for a few days on a family holiday with the non-profit A Place To Live. It was a welcome relief and an enduring source of pleasure afterwards. The children’s stories come thick and fast. “Swimming in a big swimming pool with a slide and it was Mum’s first ever visit to a swimming pool. Wandering around a paper factory. Amazement at how they make paper in Africa – from elephant droppings! A visit to a farm, watching a film and going on long, long walks. Seeing a shark close up in a big aquarium.” The children, their faces glowing, bouncing up and down in the chair, cherished their stories. They were eight families in all. And a load of volunteers in the groups for the children, the kitchen and to entertain the parents. “I swam, danced, painted, had fun cooking with other people, relaxed and chatted,” says the mother. “It was all totally new to me. The children were happy and I was able to make new contacts with people I hadn’t met before. There was a family with three young children and my daughters were able to babysit. They thought that was great.”

For a few days the tired mum found some peace of mind. Because the children were busy in their own group doing fun things, she found time for herself. And she could leave the children’s care to enthusiastic volunteers for a while. “I didn’t have to worry about the children. I could trust that they were safe and were having fun. I felt a great sense of care and safety in everything the volunteers did.”

A group holiday offers added value. Previously, this carefull mother had spent a few days at the seaside with the children but that is very different. “If I take my family on holiday alone, l have to spend a whole day making plans, taking care of the children and cooking. At this family camp, there was so much for the children to do. I was able to just sit with the other people, talk and laugh, without any stress. I didn’t worry for six days.”

What did they think about the holiday camp now, several weeks later? Her large family and the extremely difficult administrative procedure demanded virtually all her attention. “As a result I don’t have many opportunities to make friends. Thanks to the camp I got to know other people and for a short while was able to set aside any thoughts of contacts with lawyers, social services, school, the public centre for social welfare and so on. I didn’t call anyone during that time either, I just enjoyed it, took photographs and set aside every stress. I gave my brain a few days holiday.” 


Authored by Griet Bouwen Bilzen