Mada stands hugging her daughter Hala with the UK Parliament in the background. They were helped to join Mada's husband in the UK through the British Red Cross family reunion programme.

Mada and Hala in London

We always hear stories and see emotional refugee family reunion videos but what are the events that lead to this moment of joy? Today I want to share the full story with you.

In 2012 my beautiful country, Syria, was engulfed in war, wages were plummeting and living costs were sky high. My husband lost his job and we could no longer provide for our family or guarantee their safety.

We were terrified our kids would go to school and not make it back home. Living in such uncertainty and danger is devastating for a parent.

The conflict was suffocating us. We had to leave.

The pain of three years of separation

We made it to Egypt, which was also embroiled in conflict, and political and economic instability. My husband decided to seek safety in the UK and left us there temporarily as he feared the whole family would not make the journey.

My husband made the treacherous and, at times, life-threatening journey to the UK. When we said goodbye to him, I could have never imagined that we would not see his face again for three years.

For those three unbearable years I worked two jobs to provide the basics for my two young children who ached for their dad. We felt so alone.

We cried for my husband all night

Our family was broken for those years. My son, Joud, was only four years old at the time and he cried because he didn’t have a dad like his friends. Even when we would walk in the street, my little boy would ask men if they wanted to be his dad. This broke my heart.

There was a constant reminder of the danger we were in. One day a man tried to kidnap my son in the street. He tried to snatch him while he rode past us on his motorcycle but I grabbed Joud’s small body away from this stranger and held on with every fiber of my being.

The street was packed with people but not one person tried to help us. When I safely got him home we held each other and cried for my husband all night.

Our home was no longer safe

Another time, men broke into our home and took all our possessions. The only place we felt a small sense of safety, was no longer safe.

My kids were terrified and we rarely went outside and were in a constant state of anxiety and fear. I reported the crimes to the police but they did not take us seriously and threatened my family because we did not have a valid residency.

I could not afford to send my children to school so they stayed at home and wished every single day that this would be the day that their dad would rescue them from this.

Family reunion application accepted

That day finally arrived and, with the help of the British Red Cross, my husband’s application for refugee family reunion was accepted.

We were able to apply for a visa which took three months to be processed. I went to finally pick up our passports and took my daughter Hala. Her whole body was shaking but she tried to hide how nervous she was from me.

But there was no need because when we opened our passports we realised that our visas had been granted. However, because they were delivered to us so late, they expired in a few short days so we had to apply for the visas all over again.

And so, another agonising three months went by. This consumed so much of my energy and money.

We started a new life in Scotland

But by some miracle, we made it to Scotland after three long years. Now we are together at last and are rebuilding our lives as New Scots. My kids can play with their dad every day, they can go to school and we no longer live in fear.

The guiding light in our story is the British Red Cross. They helped my husband navigate the complex family reunion application process. They supported us with travel assistance and have helped me integrate and learn about my new home.

The day after I arrived I was offered a place on the Family Reunion Integration Project in Glasgow which enabled me to learn English and make friends.

Now I am a VOICES Ambassador and I am a powerful spokesperson for those that cannot speak up. With the support and training from the British Red Cross, I have spoken about family reunion in conferences in London and engaged with the media to share my story.

British Red Cross: you represent the best of humanity

To the British Red Cross, you represent the best of humanity. You are the heroes of my story. My words cannot do you justice.

I have seen how deeply strangers can care for us and work every day to make our lives easier. I might never meet every single person who helped get my family to safety in the UK but I want to thank each one of you from the bottom of my heart.

The British Red Cross helped us to put our family back together but you did not stop there. When I began to rebuild my life, you gave me a voice. I am so grateful because a life lived without a voice is like a bird without wings.

I will never forget what you have done for us. You are the reason we are safe. You will be in our hearts forever.