Bouquet of the week;Fuad Foric

24th September 1999 at 01:00
This column focuses on the positive difference that individuals make to school communities. There's the other side of the coin too - the difference that schools make to individuals. The story of Fuad Foric illustrates how each can affect the other.

Seven years ago, Fuad fled to Britain from Bosnia with his wife, two children and three suitcases. They needed help urgently as Elma, their five-year-old daughter, had a kidney condition. A Leeds-based charity, Alert, stepped in to help. A Yorkshire consultant offered his services free; Elma's operation was a success and the family began to recover from their traumas, housed in a Harrogate hostel.

Fuad got a job working nights in a potato-packing factory and thought about taking up basketball since he'd played in the national league back home. He borrowed some old trainers and went along to St Aidan's Church of England High School where the Harrogate Raiders club uses the sports hall. Coach Gordon Meadows remembers Fuad squatting on his haunches, looking gaunt and thin. "We struck up an immediate friendship," says Gordon. He also suggested Fuad applied for a cleaning job at the school.

Within months Fuad was promoted to caretaker. With the job came a home, a bungalow on the school site, so the Foric family moved in. "We realised we had recruited a diamond," says headteacher Dennis Richards, who nominated Fuad for our bouquet. Today Fuad is a "tower of strength" and his motto, "I fix" is legendary. His wife Senka has become a cleaning manager at St Aidan's; their son Edham has just entered the sixth form while Elma started in Year 7 this term.

In Bosnia Fuad was a structural engineer and spent many months working away from home, mostly on the new Underground in Frankfurt. Now he says his life is "100 per cent different", seeing his family, having a social life and making new friends.

While he applies for a British passport ("the last step") Fuad observes that in Bosnia his land is in Serb hands and many of his old friends are dead. Two children from Kosovo have recently arrived at St Aidan's and the Forics are helping them to settle in. "We know what it's like for them. We understand and we can help."

Bouquet of the Week is given in association with Marks amp; Spencer. Names, please, on a postcard - and why - to Sarah Bayliss, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY.

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