This month marks a year since my foster brother came into our lives. I have never received a bigger gift, or experienced more joy from anything than this addition to our family. I can only liken it to what I imagine having a baby is like. The pride, the love that I feel for him is more than I could have ever imagined.
Mez has never been on a holiday, and it’s been years since my family all have too, so we thought we would all go away together to celebrate this amazing anniversary. Mez has been granted 5 years asylum (until he is 19), but he doesn’t have travel documents yet so we decided to go to Wales and spend the week on a canal boat.
It was only when we were there that I thought about what it meant for Mez to be on a boat. It was only the second time he had ever been on one, and the two experiences could not be more different….
The last time was a year and a half ago when he crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy. One of 600 people, he boarded the old wooden fishing boat which probably had a maximum capacity of about 100. This overcrowding meant that the boat balanced precariously close to the waves, any movement could have tipped it, throwing everyone overboard.
They all prayed. From midnight, to midday, they prayed for their lives. They prayed for their futures. About 12 hours into their journey they saw an Italian coastguard ship on the horizon. Desperate to be noticed, the passengers on Mez’s boat became to jump up and down, shouting and waving their arms towards the ship.
The boat beneath them couldn’t take this movement and the wood began to splinter. People panicked as one by one they fell into the water. Most of them couldn’t swim and they held on to the bits of wood from the boat for dear life.
Mez thought he was going to die. On his own, aged 14, in the middle of the Mediterannean Sea.
But Mez was lucky. The Italian ship had seen them and sent out speedboats to pull the people from the water. They took them onto the ship and gave them blankets and biscuits. Mez hadn’t eaten for 15 days at this point.
Once back on dry land in Italy, Mez still had a difficult journey ahead, but after crossing Europe on foot / bunking trains, living in the Jungle, then hiding under the Eurotunnel train, he finally made it to the UK.
This time round he was captain of our boat.
Mez, I am so infinitely proud of you for not letting your past define you, for seizing every moment and embracing your future with such strength and positivity. I love you <3