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Kind-Hearted Couple Invites Refugees And Asylum Seekers To Stay In Their Home And Spend The Holidays With Them

Kind-Hearted Couple Invites Refugees And Asylum Seekers To Stay In Their Home And Spend The Holidays With Them
Malcolm Singer, Sara Nathan and Moha Noaman (Collect/ PA Real Life)

A kindly couple are giving the ultimate gift this Christmas by inviting asylum seekers and refugees to stay in their home and celebrate the festivities with them.

Empty nesters, Sara Nathan, 63, and Malcolm Singer, 66, of Acton, west London, wanted to make the most of their spare room when their two adult children, Rachel, 30, and Jonathan, 28, first left home in 2011 and 2013 respectively, by inviting refugees to stay with them while they “got back on their feet."

But, in 2015, after Sara's brother Timothy Nathan, 62, and his wife Nina Kaye, 67, who own a software business, started searching for a service to sign up for but discovered there was nothing of this ilk – they, along with Sara, decided to set-up Refugees at Home.

Sara Nathan and Moha Noaman (Collect/PA Real Life)

Speaking about what inspired her, alongside her brother and sister-in-law, to start the UK-based charity aiming to connect those with a spare room with asylum seekers and refugees needing accommodation, Sara, who now chairs tribunals for The Nursing and Midwifery Council and Social Work England, said: “Malcolm and I have two adult children who have grown up and flown the nest.

“We thought, 'Why not put our spare rooms to good use?' So, we started looking online for a charity that would help us do that, but we couldn't find any type of organization that would help.

“So I, along with my brother and sister-in-law – who were also interested in doing the same thing – decided to set-up a charity that put people who were happy to help in touch with those in need."

Sara Nathan and Malcolm Singer (Collect/PA Real Life)

Fortunately, no money was needed to start the venture – just a list of like-minded people who shared Sara, Timothy and Nina's vision and were willing and able to help.

She continued: “We didn't really need any money to set it up – all we needed to do was to create a database of people who were happy to host and another one of people who needed the help.

“The people we help range from those who just need a shower and a place to sleep for a couple of nights, to people who need a room for a few months."

Malcolm Singer and Moha Noaman (Collect/PA Real Life)

Since welcoming their first guest into their home in December 2016, Sara and Malcolm, a musician and music teacher, have played host to about 20 people.

While some are “still strangers" by the time the festive season comes around, they still happily welcome them into the family fold.

“Sometimes we might get a guest who has never celebrated Christmas before," Malcolm said.

Moha Noaman (Collect/PA Real Life)

“It can be a little overwhelming for them – so we try to make sure they feel as at home as they possibly can.

“Even though we might not know our guests at all – they're basically strangers – we always invite them to join in with our family festivities.

“It's nice for our guests to be included, but it's nice for our family too – as they get to meet and spend some time with someone who they might never have met otherwise."

Moha Noaman (Collect/PA Real Life)

Although the couple endeavor to be inclusive, Sara admits that trying to fill a stocking for someone she has known only for a matter of days can be testing.

“My children are all grown up – but they still won't give up their stockings. They still expect one every year," she said.

“And each year, if we have a guest staying with us, I always make them one too."

Malcolm Singer and Moha Noaman (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “But trying to fill a stocking for someone you've literally known for 72 hours isn't an easy task.

“I try and keep it simple – I usually include a chocolate orange, a mug, and a pair of gloves.

“I'll also put a book and some toiletries in there – and Malcolm always insists we include an Arsenal scarf too!"

Malcolm Singer and Moha Noaman (Collect/PA Real Life)

Guests are then free to join in with all the festive celebrations, even if they have only lived in the house for 24 hours or less.

“Our first ever guest arrived on December 23 and on December 24 we have a Christmas Eve and Hanukkah party, to mark the Jewish festival," Sara said.

“We have an open house where our neighbors, family and friends can all drop in. It's always noisy, with loads of people coming and going."

Malcolm Singer and Moha Noaman (Collect/PA Real Life)

Sara added: “It can be a bit of a shock moving in somewhere completely new – especially if there's a bit of a language barrier – let alone then meeting all these people you don't know.

“But our friends and family really enjoy having our refugee and asylum seekers there and they have a really good time too."

This year, Malcolm and Sara have invited their current guest Moha Noaman, 38, who hails from Egypt, as well as a former guest and a new guest who joined them in early December to join them on Christmas Day.

Refugees At Home (Collect/PA Real Life)

“This year around 20 family and friends are coming round," said Sara.

“Moha, who's been living with us since June, will be joining us and we've got another guest who only moved out a few weeks ago coming round too," continued Sara.

“Everyone's really fond of Moha and loves having him around. My mum, Mary, who is 88 years old and suffers from Alzheimer's disease is particularly fond of him."

Refugees At Home (Collect/PA Real Life)

Sara said: “Whenever she comes round Moha is really good with her and always makes an effort to have a chat, so she'll be excited to have him there on Christmas Day."

Ever adaptable, Sara and Malcolm have found looking after strangers surprisingly easy.

“It's actually not as difficult as people might think to invite someone you don't know into your house," Malcolm said.

Refugees At Home (Collect/ PA Real Life)

“They've got their own lives and so do we, so we all just get on with it," Malcolm added.

“The only things we insist on is no smoking in the house and if you drink the last bit of the milk – make sure it's replaced.

“We also make a group WhatsApp so everyone who is living in the house at one time can stay in touch easily."

Refugees At Home (Collect/PA Real Life)

“I've learned so much from having different guests. It's definitely enriched my life," he said.

“It's very bittersweet when some of our guests leave. While they're moving on with their life and it's great for them, it's sad because we'll miss having them around."

The only casualty of she and her husband's actions has been their waistlines, according to Sara.

Refugees At Home (Collect/PA Real Life)

“We always make time during the week to have a natter or eat together," Sara said.

“Moha loves to cook. He'll be on hand in the kitchen on Christmas Day.

“He's already treated us to lots of traditional Egyptian food which has just been delicious."

Malcolm Singer and Moha Noaman (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “That's the only bad thing about being a host – it's not very good for the waistline."

Moha, who has lived with the couple for six months and works part-time at Starbucks and as an Arabic teacher, is incredibly grateful to the couple for their unerring support.

He said: “When I first moved in, I didn't think I could stay for longer than a week."

Moha Noaman (Collect/PA Real Life)

He continued: “But Sara and Malcolm were so helpful – they made me feel at home basically straight away.

“Now I see them as friends, and I'm looking forward to spending Christmas with them.

“One of the most difficult things about the circumstances I'm in is not being around my family and friends."

Refugees At Home (Collect/PA Real Life)

“So, spending Christmas with Sara and Malcolm's family will be a comfort to me, because it'll remind me of being at home," he concluded.

Meanwhile, since opening up their house, the magnanimous couple say they have made “lifelong" friends.

Sara said: “All we're doing is helping people over a bit of a hump while they try to get back on their feet – and it can be a joy getting to know them at the same time.

She concluded: “It's also quite nice to have another adult presence in the house.

“We've bonded with a lot of our former guests, we see some of them as lifelong friends – and Christmas is a perfect time to catch up with those we can.

“Not all our guests have family nearby, and Christmas is a time for family, so we're more than happy to welcome them to join our celebration."

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