Youth SVP visit Fatima House in Birmingham

22nd June 2017 - by Nathalie Marytsch

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Fatima House is an accommodation project for destitute women in Birmingham, co-founded and run by the Columbans. In May, the project coordinator Mauricio Silva and Columban Lay Missionary Nathalie Marytsch welcomed a group of young students.

Fatima House is a partnership between Father Hudson’s Care, the Archdiocese of Birmingham and the Columban Missionaries, who are in charge of the day to day running of the project. Alice Braithwate of Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College was one of five students to visit and reports on their experience.

On Friday 19th May, five members of the Youth SVP (Saint Vincent de Paul) and our coordinator Marie Yates went on a trip organised by our teacher Mr Tota to visit some female asylum seekers taking refuge at the building of Fatima House.

We were all given a very warm welcome when we arrived by the couple who run the house called Mauricio and Nathalie. Firstly, Mauricio sat us down in a very comfortable sitting room with some drinks and biscuits and gave us background information about the residents at Fatima House. We learnt that the women had experienced many difficulties in their lives and may not necessarily want to answer questions we asked them, because it would be too traumatic for them.

After the women asylum seekers had finished their weekly meeting with Nathalie we were able to meet them and ask them questions about their time at Fatima House. It was very thought provoking to realize that if Fatima House didn’t exist the women would be left out on the streets with nothing, they would be destitute. Also, it was impressive that they had the courage to tell us a bit about their traumatic experiences of continually being rejected by the government as refugees and going through the same process repeatedly, several had been trying for at least ten years.

What must it be like to have no status or not be recognized as a human being? It was awful to think about this situation.

Before lunch we had a presentation explaining how Fatima House functions and what the rules and regulations of staying there are. Also, we were shown around the house and it was interesting to see that they have to share so many things like the bedrooms and kitchen equipment. It made me realise how challenging it must be for the asylum seekers to have to live with people from completely different cultures and religious beliefs to themselves.

After lunch in the dining room we finished the whole session with a prayer to help those seeking refuge, led by Mauricio and Natalie. I found this very helpful, because it helped me to think about how I take for granted the pleasures like having a home with family, my own food and water and my own bedroom.

When we left I reflected on how hard it must be for Mauricio and Nathalie to run Fatima House, because of getting very tired and stressed trying to please everybody staying there, so I will look up to them as role models.

Alice Braithwaite – Year 10 Youth SVP member
Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College