Belonging: the importance of faith based institutions to migrants

This month we are focussing on Belonging and what can help create a sense of place and identity. Our research report, ‘Moving Matters’

found that for some migrants, religious organisations are a source of helpful individuals and a way of starting a social network:

“[My boyfriend] brought me to his church, so I met some of his church friends, which was good, that’s actually how I got my new flat, was through one of our mutual friends at work.” Interviewee

“I volunteer as well. So once a month, I volunteer at the tea diner at church and that’s quite cool, it’s a really good way to meet people as well…” Interviewee

So, we are here telling Sidonne’s story of how helpful the Church was to her when she first came here. We know that many people will have experienced the same welcome and support from the Mosque and the Temple.

My name is Sidonne

 I moved to the UK (from Africa) in 2002 and lived in Plymouth until 2009. I faced a lot of challenges initially as the pace of life was so different from the one I was used to. It was a culture shock for me and I needed to adapt quickly, if I wanted to settle here and live my life to the fullest. I was missing my family and friends enormously. Everything was so different, from the food, the culture to the weather. I felt very low and depressed and wasn’t sure about the steps to take to move forward with my life.

What helped me was making new friends and more importantly joining my local church. I met some very nice people from that church who helped me a lot. A couple of families from the church supported me by inviting me for lunches/dinners as well as helping me improve my English. From the beginning, I knew that it was essential to speak and write English fluently if I wanted to do well in life . In the first month, I enrolled on an English course to improve my English and I was supported by my new friends from the  church who offered me additional support.

 I truly benefited from my church as not only was I given educational support but I felt very welcome by the members of the church. I fitted in well and got an emotional and spiritual boost from it. These new friends were always there for me whenever I needed them and this was essential during my initial years in the UK. Even after many years in the UK, I still value the importance of churches. I have been living in London in the last few years and I have joined a new church. Like before, I fit in very well within this new church. I get a lot of support there and we go on overnight spiritual retreats in various cities which are amazing.

My new Vicar put in touch with a monastery based on a Island off the coast of Cannes, South of France. Every time I go there on a spiritual retreat, it feels like I am in heaven; I am completely blown away by the splendour of the surroundings, the stillness, the peace, the calmness and the quality of the worship. It’s extremely hard for me to leave each time and return home because my soul feels so nourished and so at peace there..

Going to church has given me a lot emotionally, spiritually and has connected me with many people who have supported me a lot over the years. Of course I did other things like studying ,working and getting my citizenship etc but I strongly believe that for migrants like me, a place of worship such as a church is a great resource and source of comfort, especially in the initial years of life here in the UK.

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