Simeon and Fiona: part 1- ‘Meet Fiona and Simeon’

Simeon and Fiona1a

Two new members of staff recently joined the team at Hilton Church, both working as part of the Youth Project headed by Jonathan Fraser. Simeon Ewing works with children both in the church, and in the parish. Fiona Waite is on a two-year apprenticeship programme, working in the church three days a week and studying at Highland Theological College another two days. I met up with them recently to get to know them better, and to hear how their work is going. This is the first of five posts about them and their work.

Meet Fiona and Simeon

Fiona

Fiona was born Stafford, but lived at Morar near Mallaig from the age of three to eleven. The family then moved to Inverness, and from being in a primary school with eleven pupils, she found herself in one with 400. Before long she was in Milburn Academy, one of 1200.

Fiona enjoys change, and though leaving her friends at Morar behind her was tough, she admits that there were fewer opportunities and things to do for a teenager in Morar compared with the Highland city!

The family attended a Roman Catholic Church in Mallaig, but when they came to Inverness, they began coming along to Hilton Church.

Scottish school of contemp danceAfter leaving Millburn, Fiona began studying dance at The Scottish School of Contemporary Dance, which is connected with Dundee and Angus College, but realised that this was not for her. After working for a while at the Aden House Care Home in Inverness, in autumn 2014 she joined Soul Survivor’s 10-month Soul61 course, based at the Soul Survivor church in Watford. Fiona studied theology, communications and leadership for two days each week, and the other three days, worked on placement. She found this ‘A very meaningful year.’

At present, her personal time is focussed on her family. Her sister has twin girls aged 18 months, who bring Fiona and her family ‘so much joy.’

soul survivor watord

Simeon

kiltearn-houseUntil he was seven, Simeon lived literally beside the beach, and from as long as he can remember he has loved nature.  Home was the family flat at in Old Manse at Kiltearn, near Evanton, which was shared by to up to ten children.  His parents were English-born. They met in Kilmarnock while doing work for the CARE organisation, married and then felt a call to come north to set up a children’s home, looking after  a small number of children under the auspices of the Christian Family Home Trust which they set up. It’s a tribute to their sensitivity that Simeon felt completely comfortable in this extended household.

After the work with children came to a natural end Simeon’s dad returned to teaching, and his mum, a nurse, to health visiting, and the family left Kiltearn. While there, they had attended Alness Baptist Church, but by the time Simeon was a pupil in Dingwall Academy, the family went to Muir of Ord Church of Scotland, close to where they were now living.is

By the time he left school at the end of his 5th year, Simeon had the qualifications necessary for university entry, and took a year out, volunteering at the Scripture Union residential facility at Lendrick Muir where he helped with housekeeping and catering, meeting many interesting people in the process, including some from Ukraine.

Thereafter, he began to study Geography at Aberdeen University without, perhaps, any deep thought. There was an assumption that people with his abilities would naturally progress to university level study. But soon he was struggling – the subject material of university geography did not captivate him in the same way as the subject had done at school. He found it hard to motivate himself, and his marks suffered.

After two years at Aberdeen therefore, he switched to three-year degree course at Moorlands College, near Bournemouth, where he studied Applied Theology together with some cross-cultural studies and children’s work.

Then he went to Ukraine, where at first he worked in a church-run orphanage in Mariupol, 80km from the Russian border. Mariupol

 

After Simeon married Joanna, who is Polish, they moved to Kiev where she had work lined up in a Street Kids’ Rehabilitation Centre run by a Polish man, and spent a year there.

The Ukrainian government were trying to close the State’s own orphanages, and were looking for ways of giving the children better care.  The level of care and preparation for adult life in State Orphanages was poor, resulting in one young person out of seven attempting suicide in the five years after leaving the orphanage, and a huge number ending up in prison, unemployed, back on the streets. The government was therefore encouraging folk to take orphans into their own homes, where they could be looked after in small numbers and a more authentic family environment.

Joanna and Simeon aimed to start a family house to care for some of these orphans. They set up a charity, obtained funding and built a suitably large house. But by that time the law in Ukraine had changed, and foreigners were no longer permitted to care for children in this way.  Neither Joanna nor Simeon wanted to become Ukrainians – it would have meant giving up their existing citizenship, and Simeon might have found himself conscripted in the Ukrainian army in its conflict with Russia.  And so they decided to leave – the people running the orphanage at Mariupol had had to flee due to the Russian advance, and they were able to use the house which Joanna and Simeon had built to continue their work.

And so very unexpectedly, Simeon and Joanna left Ukraine last summer, with their two little girls, Amelia and Jasmine Joy (‘JJ’ as she’s called in the family.) A few weeks later, Simeon started work with Hilton Church.

The family are settling in well, and are enjoying being part of Hilton Church. Joanna, who is a qualified Primary Teacher hopes to find relief work in local schools or nurseries. She enjoys the friendships she’s made with some of the other parents she meets at the school gates when she is collecting Amelia and JJ.

When I asked him about his personal interests, Simeon reminded me of the love of nature and the countryside which has been part of his life since as far back as he can remember. He loves taking Amelia and JJ for walks in the forest which may kindle in them a similar passion. He hopes to get back into participation in sport (probably football) after a period when he’s been off the field due to back trouble. He also enjoys watching sport, admits to being a ‘passionate’ Ross County fan, and is proud to have a season ticket this year for the first time.

ross

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