First guarantee of a tomorrow – Pharo’s story, part three

Over the last few weeks, we have been telling the story of one young man’s journey to Paignton, overcoming unimaginable obstacles every step of the way.

Our Specialist Community Builder Ash has been staggered by the 19-year-old Pharo’s determination to face down everything that is thrown at him, whether it is travelling halfway around the world or his resolve to support his family.

But his ambition does not end there, he also wants to study engineering and architecture so that one day he can return to his home country of Afghanistan and help rebuild it.

Pharo is, of course, an asylum seeker, but before anyone rushes to judgment it should be remembered that every migrant is a person. Pharo is not alone, each of them has an incredible story to tell.

In Ash’s own words, “I could never quite believe this kid was real. When he first arrived in Paignton, he was an 18-year-old determined to save his family and rebuild the world. When I was 18, I had barely stopped thinking about Pokémon! ”

At Torbay Communities, we have been proud to work with more than 500 asylum seekers as they arrive in the Bay and Ash has many fond memories of his interactions with them.

We believe it is time to look beyond the myths, the lies and the social media stoked hatred. It is time to change the narrative.

Call them what you will, but never lose sight of the fact that these are people who, more often than not, are just like Ukrainian refugees escaping war in their home countries.

Ash recalls one occasion: “We were driving along the seafront on our way to class. Five of us were crammed into my little car, practically sitting on each other. It was a truly miserable day. The rain hammered down on the car roof as the road steadily filled up with water. The sea beside us was an angry churning mill of foam and malice, throwing up ten-foot waves of angry protest.

“Despite the bitter weather outside, the Inside of our foggy metal cocoon was lively and fun. We idly chatted and swapped stories. With about 13 languages and some 6,000 miles behind us, we made for interesting companions.

“We would natter about the classes and the humdrum of life. This was a good time for me to play detective and figure out what the guys needed. For them, it was a chance to escape their confines and ask me about their new world, as well as a chance to voice their complaints. ”

Pharo was the youngest member of the group and the first to complain. “Ash, I really need some exercise. Is there anywhere I can go?”

Looking at the angry sea, Ash gestured vaguely “… you could always go for a swim,” he said with a sarcastic undercurrent.

“Oh no! No, no, no, no! Never again”. His protests were heartfelt. His whole body recoiled at the very idea of stepping towards the water. “I spent six hours on that thing! I am never, never going near it again!”

The whole group began to chuckle before the oldest piped up, “T’ch! six hours!? I did three days on that damn thing!”

Suddenly, all parties were engaged and the banter went something like this: “Six hours!? I spent three weeks hiding in the jungle”

“Three weeks!? I crossed a desert! It took us months!”

“Months! The bombs have been in my country for 40 years! Three weeks, that’s nothing!”

And so it continued until they rounded on Ash when one of them said: “I don’t know why you’re laughing, Ash. You wouldn’t have survived three minutes!”

Ash is the first to admit, he wouldn’t.

The exchange continued for some time, but then there was a pause. The briefest of moments when silence hung in the air before Pharo broke it with the words: “Yes, but we’re safe now and, well, this is the first time I’ve ever had a ‘tomorrow”.

We cannot conceive of a world where “tomorrow” is not guaranteed. We may not always like tomorrow. We may not want to go to work tomorrow. We may not like the look of the weather tomorrow. But we simply cannot imagine there not being a tomorrow.

This is what we can do. We can give people tomorrow. We can give people hope. And safety. And tomorrow.