Faith, Fundraising and Fostering: Insights with Atiq
11 September 2023
11 September 2023
Fostering placements come in many different shapes and sizes, from parent and child placements to long-term or short-term placements. Regardless of what type, fostering can be a highly rewarding experience.
For some foster carers, religion and faith can play an important part in their fostering journey. One such person is Atiq, whose faith has not only played a key role in his decision to foster but has also spurred him on to fundraise for his local community centre.
We spoke to Atiq to find out more about his experience with faith, fundraising and foster care…
Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Atiq, and I’m 35 years old. My parents are from a Pakistani background, but I have lived in Oldham all my life. My wife and I recently started fostering, after having considered it for a while. We recognised that there was a huge need for helping vulnerable children in the community, and this was particularly important to us from a religious perspective. We don’t have any children of our own, and we had an empty room, so we thought we’d give it a go. Fostering is hugely rewarding but also challenging.
How many children do you foster currently?
We are currently waiting for our next placement, but our most recent placement was the short-term fostering of two children.
How did you find the application process?
The application process is quite lengthy and is very in-depth. It almost feels like you’re asked about everything, but it’s important for it to be thorough. The application process is all done in a very professional way.
Can you tell us about some of the unique skills you need to become a foster carer?
Patience and emotional intelligence are very important skills for a foster carer to have. Knowing what to say and when to say it, as well as being able to read behaviours, is helpful.
Foster carers should try to be tolerant and very supportive.
What does a typical day look like for you as a foster carer?
The children in our last placement were very young. It was particularly difficult for a baby and a toddler to be away from their biological mother, and they had a lot of emotional traumas to deal with at such a young age. That’s one of the reasons why maintaining a sense of routine and stability is so important.
Sometimes, we’d take the children to my brother’s house to play with my nephews and nieces, who were a similar age, or we’d take them to the fun fair. We had a very set routine, though. The baby would be asleep every day from midday until 2pm, for example.
Bedtimes were particularly hard because the toddler had to have someone with her all the time. She hated to be alone and would wake up crying in the night. She would be really upset after having contact with her biological parents, and if you went out, she would fear you wouldn’t come back.
What are some challenges you may face as a new foster carer?
Dealing with difficult behaviours is hard, but children can’t express why they’re behaving in certain ways. For instance, our first placement was a 15-year-old UASC (unaccompanied asylum-seeking child). He had literally come off the back of a lorry, having spent his whole life in danger. He was very problematic and aggressive. He wouldn’t eat, and unfortunately, that placement broke down. He didn’t speak English but we both spoke Arabic, so we could communicate with each other. However, I think he had difficulties with his expectations of the UK versus the reality, as the people who’d brought him to this country told him he would become a professional footballer if he went to Manchester. Every placement brings its own unique set of challenges.
How do faith and religion play a part in your fostering experience?
My Muslim faith plays a big part in all aspects of my life. We are open to every child, but Olive Branch Fostering try to make a religious match for convenience. Praying is a big part of my daily routine, so this would need to fit in with the child’s routine. It can be best to provide an environment that the foster child is used to.
I have been studying religious sciences for eight years, and I find a lot of wisdom in these teachings. It has helped me with my emotional intelligence, for example. There are a lot of sayings by the prophets about the importance of caring for children in need and the sense of achievement it can bring. Faith also gives me a huge sense of community. I do a lot of talks, and I lead the Friday prayers.
What has been your favourite memory as a foster carer?
This last fostering placement had my favourite memory. The young girl was reluctant to talk to and bond with me. Perhaps due to previous traumas, she was very wary of men, but then she gave me a big hug, and the barriers broke down.
She was a very nice, clever child. She’d always want someone to play with all day, and she was very active. It was bitter-sweet when she left, as she was going back to her biological parents, but she’d also become attached to my wife. We gave her an early birthday present before she left.
What has your time been like with Olive Branch Fostering?
My time with Olive Branch Fostering has been very positive. There is always someone to talk to.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering fostering?
Fostering is extremely rewarding. It can be challenging and demanding, but it’s worth it to provide a safe environment for children. It is very time consuming, as you’re dealing with social workers and health professionals, and it’s safe to say life won’t be the same afterwards.
Social time is much more limited, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.
We’ve heard you’re also an active fundraiser. Can you tell us more about this?
This summer, I climbed Ben Nevis to fundraise for the Completion of Clemency House. This is a local swimming pool that is being turned into a community centre, which will have everything from ping pong tables and a gym to Arabic studies, cooking classes, and even horse riding. It’s a religious institute but also a community hub, with a café.
The project requires a lot of money, and I have had a big involvement from the start. The other month, one of our fundraising initiatives was around mental health awareness in Oldham. We worked with the NHS to train up mental health champions in the area.
Currently, we’re raising funds to finish the building, which is why a group of us climbed Ben Nevis. About 40 of us stayed in the area for three days, setting off at 7am to climb. I was up and down in about four hours, but some people took ten hours. It was raining on the way back down, which made it more difficult.
I enjoyed the sense of camaraderie and helping each other to achieve a shared goal. It was hard, though. In fact, one guy went up twice because he got to the top quickly, and then he went back to help other people reach the summit.
I’ll soon be doing another climb for a different fundraising campaign, working with a charity that helps the homeless and asylum seekers.
What else do you do in your spare time?
My schedule is very busy. I work until midday, and then my life revolves around fostering and my religious teachings, which I do four days a week. I’m also very active. I really like my sports, so I enjoy going to the gym, as well as cycling, hiking with my family, and doing jujitsu three times a week.
You can find out more about Atiq’s fundraising journey and donate on his Just Giving page.
Could you provide a fresh start and a safe space to call home for a vulnerable child or young person?
Get in touch to find out more.
11 September 2023