All friendship and kindness

Brenda-Lee Westwood and Paul Westwood
Brenda-Lee Westwood and Paul Westwood

Twelve months ago, the Westwood family members were in turmoil.

Having arrived in Scotland just months earlier after fleeing their home in Zimbabwe, they were still living with relatives and had no idea where life would take them next.

But a year on, they are settled in Methil, and say they owe it all to the community.

“Our transformation shows what people can do when they come together as a community,” said Paul Westwood.

Paul brought his family to Fife after a member of the Zanu-PF, Timba Milsa – now an MP in Zimbabwe – seized his successful car parts business, leaving them with nothing and open to threats of violence and rape.

Sons Christopher and Donovan both attend St Agatha’s Primary School and Paul and wife Brenda-Lee have nothing but praise for the staff.

“The school has done so much for us,” said Paul. “We cannot praise them enough and they have offered so much guidiance to our boys.”

As well as receiving a number of merits for manners and good behaviour, both boys are now heavily involved with local sports, such as cricket and football.

“Chistopher has been picked for the Fife under-15s cricket, which trains in Dundee, and both of them were selected for Fife under-12s in Lochgelly,” said Brenda-Lee.

Currently, the family cannot afford a car, and so rely on public transport and lifts from family and friends.

However, Brenda-Lee is hoping she will be able to secure full-time employment soon, after completing a course in security.

The couple admit the journey has taken longer and has been harder than they anticipated, but said the support of the community has been amazing.

“Our next door neighbours, George and Marion, are our fairy godparents,” said Paul. “They come around, they are always so kind to Brenda-Lee and our boys and are part of our family.”

For now, Paul – who has been unable to work because of ill-health – is still extremely keen to get some sort of compensation from Mr Milswa.

The family has been in contact with Lindsay Roy MP, and are still hoping he’ll consider sending a letter of complaint to the Zimbawean Ambassador about their situation.

“I’m very determined,” said Paul. “But I can’t do this by myself. All we want is compensation so we can try to rebuild our lives.”

Mr Roy said: “This has been quite a delicate operation, as the family was worried they would suffer from victimisation from the Zimbabwe government.

“I have written a letter on their behalf to the Commonwealth Foreign Office and the European Parliament to try to resolve this situation regarding the injustices which happened to them in Zimbabwe.

“The response from the Commonwealth Foreign Office was not encouraging but I am still waiting on a response from the MEP.”

Paul added: “Look how far we have come in a year. We’ve had nothing but kindness and you can’t put a value on that spirit – it has been amazing. It’s been like a homecoming.”