Kath (r) with baby Salma, whom she helped to deliver.

When the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in the summer, many fled with little more than the clothes on their backs. 

Those that made it to Britain on one of the emergency flights from Kabul airport were housed in hotels as temporary accommodation.

While some have since been moved into permanent homes, most have not been so lucky. 

English teacher and lay pioneer minister Kath Crowsley, from Milton Keynes, was keen to help when refugees first started arriving in the area.

After one month helping to sort through clothes for the new arrivals, she became one of the Welcome MK coordinators at a hotel housing refugees in the town. 

Welcome MK was set up to help refugees, asylum seekers and migrants settle into life in the area and indeed in Britain. And it brings together volunteers of all faiths and none.

For the last few months, Kath has been onhand at the hotel to provide advice on all sorts of things, much of which is practical – everyday things like opening a bank account, registering with the local GP and navigating Universal Credit.

She’s also a much-needed friend for the new arrivals who are still adjusting to a completely new environment, while at the same time worrying about the people they have left behind.

“A lot of it is just being there as a listening ear, just listening to their stories and their concerns about their families back in Afghanistan,” she says. 

“They have experienced the trauma of leaving families behind but more than that, there is the unfamiliarity of their new surroundings. It’s very confusing and they are having to learn how to navigate a totally different culture and different system.

“These things are quite complex in addition to the trauma of having to leave your life and all of your family behind.”

For many of the refugees, it was their first experience of Christmas so the hotel put on a Christmas party with food, an entertainer and bouncy castle. 

“They are really interested in Christmas,” says Kath.

“The children are totally unaware of Father Christmas so it’s been exciting for them to find out about all the traditions and the presents.” 

Welcome MK also stepped in to fill the educational gap while the children waited for their school placements. The older children have already been able to start at secondary school, but the younger ones won’t begin primary school until the new year.

In addition to lessons for the children, the volunteers have also been running English classes for the women.

“Education has been a big thing,” says Kath. 

But being a volunteer at the hotel has also been a learning experience for Kath. 

“I don’t want to say I was ignorant but it made me realise how unaware I was of all the different cultural sensitivities, and of how much I take for granted in my own life, especially when it comes to education for women and girls,” she said.

Over the last few months, Kath has had to be ready for anything and that was especially true when she found herself helping to deliver a baby. 

The guest had gone into labour in her room and it progressed more quickly than any of them expected. There was no time for the ambulance to arrive and the emergency services instead had to talk Kath through the delivery step by step. 

A healthy baby girl was born and an experienced older Afghan woman was on hand to assist and cut the cord.

“It was a very special moment and a real privilege to be part of it,” says Kath. 

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