Devon village gives Syrian refugee family new home

couple with baby
Image caption A year after moving to Devon, the couple welcomed a new baby, named Mary

A family of Syrian refugees has found a new home in Devon after villagers provided a house and furnishings.

A community group from Ottery St Mary also organised work, language lessons, a school and doctors for Hani and Amneh Arnaout and their three young children.

It's part of the Home Office's community sponsorship scheme, which allows groups of volunteers to welcome refugees into their town or village.

"When I wake up and see my house I thank God, every day," Mr Arnaout said.

The family said they fled Syria after their house was bombed while their daughter Nour, then six months old, was inside. They thought she had died.

Mr Arnaout said he was also seized and tortured. They spent five years living as refugees in Jordan before being selected to come to the UK.

Image caption The couple fled war-torn Syria

In Ottery St Mary, the community group Abide was set up by local volunteer Anna Roderick, and was paired with the Arnaout family by the Home Office.

"I remember feeling how desperate must these people be, to flee everything that's familiar to them to take such a risk going into the unknown?," Ms Roderick said.

"A lot of people have donated things the family needed. The whole house has been furnished by people donating things or buying things."

Image caption Anna Roderick set up the community sponsorship group Abide

The family moved to the UK in September 2017 and a year later had a baby daughter.

Children Abdul and Nour attend the local school and Mr Arnaout is carrying out work experience as a landscape gardener.

He said he still dreamed of his time in Syria, but thanked God every day for his new home.

"Ottery St Mary is my family now," he said.

Image caption The family celebrating their first year in Ottery St Mary in September 2018.

The government has promised to bring 20,000 Syrian refugees to the UK by 2020.

Most will be settled by councils, but so far 45 community sponsorship groups have welcomed and supported a family, according to the Home Office.

You can see more on this story on BBC Inside Out in the South West at 19:30 GMT on BBC One on Monday 4 February and for 30 days afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.

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