From Senegal to York

Posted on 20 November 2012 | Narrative

Judy Diatta shares her story of settling in York.

“Just 3 weeks after our September 1980 wedding down south, my husband and I arrived at York station. A new life was beginning and we had no idea where we would live or work. Georges is from Senegal and we’d met as he helped me, a new missionary, to learn his native Jola language. Now he needed to learn my language and spent 3 months at a language school in Whitby, whilst I searched for work in York. With qualifications as a primary teacher and a secretary I was optimistic about finding work. But 17 job applications had resulted in nothing.

One wet November evening, crossing Skeldergate Bridge on my way home to my friend’s house, I began to feel despair. I thought of how I’d felt as I’d looked up at the windows of busy offices, longing to belong somewhere. I affirmed my faith that God had brought us to York, and lifted the situation to him. The following morning a local secretarial agency rang, offering 2 days work at York Diocesan Office beside York Minster. Imagine my joy when I was offered permanent work, even though they didn’t actually need anyone immediately!

When Georges completed the beginners’ course at Whitby, the Principal of the language school offered us, rent free, a semi-detached house in Woodthorpe; it had been on the market for 2 years. It was our home for 5 months until a buyer turned up. By this time I was expecting our first child. Where would we live now? We had our names put onto the Housing Department’s list and waited, whilst staying in temporary accommodation.

Through contact with a neighbour in Woodthorpe, we’d learned that they were taking on labourers on the Selby Coalfield at Gascoigne Wood. Georges was offered work without even an interview! That provided for us until just after our second child was born. After several months of temporary jobs, our neighbour at our new home in Leeman Road showed us a job advert for work as a labourer at York Minster Stoneyard. There were 300 applicants for 2 jobs!

Georges was interviewed, and although not initially successful, he was offered work 2 years after the fire at York Minster on 9 July 1984. It was a privilege to be part of the Restoration team and see the south transept gradually being restored to its former glory!

Georges has just celebrated 25 years at the Minster and we truly give thanks to God for his faithfulness to us as a family and to all the friends who helped us along the way!”