What’s Gaelic for welcome? – A brief look at Scotland’s response to the Refugee crisis

So recently after watching the state of global affairs go from – what seems to be a slightly over exaggerated version of the West Wing to truly nightmarish and full blown Team America style comedy sketch – I disappeared. Well … actually I mostly swore a lot. But, I thought there had to be something that gave me a glimmer of hope that all humanity had not totally been lost (big thank you to the Netherlands and France for upping my political spirit). And there is, I found myself reading more and more about Scotland’s reaction to the refugee crisis and mostly feeling pretty proud.

Scots on the whole welcoming displaced people should not be a surprise, despite our not so friendly stereotypical global image. Or to quote the Simpsons

Principle Skinner – “You Scots sure are a contentious people.”

Grounds Keeper Willie – “YOU JUST MADE AN ENEMY FOR LIFE”

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Scotland and Scottish people (in my opinion) are some of the most friendly and welcoming places/peoples (unless your English… in which case sorry about that). In fact Glasgow in 2014 was voted the friendliest city in the world (who could have seen that one coming?) and since the city’s slogan is “people make Glasgow” it should not be a surprise that it’s people responded to the refugee crisis in true Glasgow style with the Refuweegie project. So if you haven’t heard of the Refuweegie project it was fundamentally set up in to help make refugees coming to Glasgow feel welcome and connected to this new city of theirs. Since it was created in December 2015 it has grown and expanded massively and continues to be a truly beautiful project.

 

 

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One of the most impressive responses I have seen to the refugee crisis has to be project “Elpis” (means hope in Greek) set up by two Edinburgh University students. Using their environmental engineering degree knowledge and connections they set out to make solar power phone charging points across some of the most under pressure and desperate camps across Greece. In their words:

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“Dependable information empowers people in crises and aids in clarifying rumours, reducing confusion, stress and susceptibility to fraud. Therefore refugees will be able to make better-informed decisions for themselves and their families for a better chance of resettlement. You will also help refugees in safeguarding their most cherished memories that are often documented on their mobile phones; offering them hope in the darkest moments.”

 

So as I searched for ways to get involved in helping welcome refugees to Edinburgh (and lets be honest my Arabic is non existent – but I’m working on it stay tuned) I found the Edinburgh University Sanctuary Walk and signed up. This 13-mile walk is to raise funds for refugees to be able to access courses at Edinburgh University – I chose this angle to help, as education once they’ve achieved it cannot be taken away from them, no matter what happens politically.

I know that not everyone has felt fully welcomed and that we as a nation definitely could do more, but it seriously gives me hope to see these kind of responses to such awful times. From cutting edge solar powered phone chargers to simple but effective welcome packs, it makes me think that there is definitely something to be hopeful for.

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Some projects to consider getting involved in or giving money to are –

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Lucy-Small2

http://www.elpismeanshope.com/

https://refuweegee.co.uk/

http://www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk/refugee_crisis_appeal

http://www.thewelcoming.org/

Instagram – #refugeeswelcometoscotland

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Christmas without Alan

So for a really long time I’ve wanted to right about my dad’s death, and for some it’s a really therapeutic method of keeping a connection with those that have died. But for me I just couldn’t do it. He had such a way with words and the English language engulfed his life in so many ways – the pressure of writing to him or about him overwhelmed me. But I also know that there are others my age who have suffered similar loses and have written beautifully on it – so here is my attempt to explain the hole in my life that is the death of my father Alan Small.

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I want to focus on Christmas time and how this time of year, specifically and frankly unsurprisingly, really smacks me in the face with the fact that he is dead. My first full blown and worst anxiety attack to date was the Christmas in the year he had died. I had come home from university for the holidays and was excited to see everyone on the surface. Underneath – unknown to myself- there was a huge amount of pain and angst that came to a climax one night. I will never forget that feeling. I won’t forget that feeling of fear and panic when I thought I was having a heart attack. Everything went black and I almost passed out, my mum half carried me upstairs then put me to bed where I tried to sleep but my heart was pounding so hard. The rest of that Christmas is a complete blur of alcohol to try and soothe the pain and subsequent onslaught of crippling anxiety. When I look back at pictures from that Christmas I barely remember anything of it, I see myself in the pictures attempting to smile, gripping onto to a sofa with nothing behind the eyes.

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It is not just because that within December there is my birthday, Christmas and Hogmanay – all celebrations, which revolve around the idea of reflection – that makes me think of him. It is that these are events which require a host – and try as I might I cannot yet fill the enormous shoes Alan left. I miss the speeches he gave, the laughter he pulled from even the hardest people and having another person to badger my mum to make roast potatoes.

Dad was never into presents, he grew up during the war in a house with not a lot of money and lots of siblings so presents weren’t high on the to-do list. He valued people and their time more than gifts – a concept which I can very much say had no sway with 7 year old me. I still remember on my 17th birthday dad had forgotten my “one gift I really wanted” which I am mortified to say was a Jack Wills hoodie (hey those where different more preppy times okay!) and stormed up town and fought his way through Jack Wills to get it for me. At the time the gesture and the magnitude of it was lost on me. Low lit, ultra friendly, over priced clothing stores were dads idea of hell on earth, so for him to do this for me was a real show of selflessness.

I now see the depth and value of what he tried to teach seven year old Lucy very clearly now. What I would give to tell him that now. But I can’t. I have my absolute saint of a mother, my huge family, friends and many others that I know and care for but I will still forever yearn for the “Small boy in the corner”.

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Go to university and work hard they said, you’ll definitely get a job they said – My on-going battle to find a job and be an adult.

So after writing about my anxiety I want to continue writing about big aspects of my life right now – and if there’s one thing I seem to constantly have on my mind 24/7 its: “find my dream job/ must fill out 1000 application forms today” (also when is my princess diaries moment coming… ?! Any day now). Having studied Politics at university leaves you with lots of wiggle room. I won’t lie, clearly what I thought I wanted was enough room to wiggle …. I now would trade it all in for a solid job idea.

Now, the question that graduates everywhere fear the most … “how’s the job search going?”. Normally this is said in a condescending tone from an older relative who has no idea what LinkedIn even is and keeps suggesting that you just “hand out CV’s”. DAMN IT AGNES, IF IT WAS THAT EASY I’d just march up to Oxfam and hand them my CV. Frankly at this stage I’d do a little dance for them.

So this leads me to situations with relatives/friends/random opinionated people you meet at 2am in a smoking area, giving you their often-garbled opinion on what is a very frustrating moment in your life and exactly how to fix it. I know that mostly they are trying to help and are offering me what they genuinely think is useful advice. But the tone often suggests that the real issue is me not trying hard enough.

I have truly bent over backwards to finish lengthy job applications or make it to interviews. I recently made it to the final round for a job I desperately wanted, so did an interview half through a trip, in Jerusalem, via Facetime audio, in a packed hostel, with about 6 different languages being spoken in the background, in 34 degree heat (I’ll let that absolute car crash of an image soak in). Did I end up getting this job? No, but at least I know I did literally everything I could.

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UNPAID INTERNSHIPS – what fresh hell is this?

You’re looking at your favourite job sites (for me its Charityjobsuk, Goodmoves etc.) then you see something you actually have all the skills to do, (who hasn’t done a Joey – Friends scenario and said they had 10 years of dance background when actually you cant touch your toes), your heart fills with joy and then you see the wage – £0?! Horrifyingly, most of these internships are in London. Who on earth can afford to work full time in London for nothing?!

In my mind, these unpaid internships are totally ridiculous, unachievable and seem to be designed to lower our expectations, make us too scared to ask for a raise and attempt to normalise something that is NOT normal all under the guise of the illusive “experience”.

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I find it hard and often embarrassing in this world of instantly being able to compare yourself to others to admit I’m not where I wanted to be by now in terms of work. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve literally wanted to rip all my hair out and scream when I don’t get an unpaid volunteering role, let alone the fully paid jobs I’ve applied for. But I have learned some things …..

The things I have learned from not getting my dream job:

  • Rejection is hard
  • EVERYBODY IS FAKING IT
  • Ignoring peoples advice for your own sanity is okay
  • 12 page Job applications after 12am are NOT worth it
  • Keep going

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It’s funny, because when I look back at the late nights at university in the library (don’t look at me like that I definitely had at least 4!), I know that at the time I genuinely thought that I was working towards getting a degree class that would help me sail into a great job – so I did just that, worked hard, fought through my dads death and anxiety attacks to get a 2:1. I now know that the reality in 2017 is much harder than that and that as a generation we are all in the same very unemployed boat. Undoubtedly, I have a lot more late nights ahead – staring at my computer screen regretting not following my 7-year-old dream of being the next Britney – ironic, because if this keeps up I’ll be Britney circa 2007. But I’m going to keep trying, and keep looking for something that does value my skills and doesn’t expect me to work for nothing – there has to be at least one job going like that? One thing I know for sure is when I finally end up with a job that really inspires me I am not going to be making any more coffee for entitled middle-aged white men – while they click their fingers at me and refer to me as sweetheart. And that is in many ways my dream job for now.

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Hello Anxiety my old friend – Achieving your goals despite the monster in your head.

So I want to start by saying in the last couple of years I have been extremely fortunate with a combination of hard work, luck and just plain lunacy (who moves to China with no mandarin!?) to have travelled and seen a lot of the world. However I would be lying if I said these trips were easy for me because of my anxiety. Some of my friends know I suffer from anxiety, others may have no idea but I think it’s frankly ridiculous that people are expected to just not talk about the hurricane in their minds. Especially when what originally triggered it was completely out of my control – my dad dying.

How does my anxiety affect me? –

Average scenario of when it hits me, I will set the scene: I’m sitting with close friends laughing talking about everything and anything (most likely me quoting the Simpsons) everything is great and …..ANXIETY appears. Excellent. My brain goes into over drive, my thoughts go running through my mind, I hear a ringing sound in my ears, my heart rate quickens, my mouth grows dry and I struggle to breathe, I grip onto something hard in the hopes to keep me present. Traditionally I am hung-over and tired, but much like that ex that always seems to know when your feeling weak it can catch me off guard.

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The first real hurdle I had with my anxiety and traveling was moving to Hong Kong to study at Hong Kong University for a term. What sets off my anxiety you might be wondering? Well often nothing, but some sure fire ways to send me to anxiety town are

  • Hangovers
  • Lack of sleep
  • Heat
  • Constant loud noise
  • Crowded spaces
  • Being on a 12 hour flight and trying not to panic is frankly an oxymoron

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If a you’re thinking that all of those things sound like a term abroad in HK in a oner to you then you would be right. I remember one night on a 7/11 crawl talking to my friends and them asking me what sets off my anxiety, explaining and them looking confusedly at me like – isn’t that just your everyday life here!? What kind of masochist are you?

How have I tackled it? –

In truth I haven’t but I win as many fights these days as I loose. But I have to consider short term, and long-term rewards. Will going out tonight drinking far too much, spending far too much be worth the crippling anxiety and depression tomorrow? (9/10 times) DEAR GOD NO. Will saving the money and booking a flight be better a use of my money, for me yes because I know this is one of my passions and drives in life. Some of my biggest achievements for me are on a day-to-day basis getting up and keeping going – the small wins that we all need to survive. On bigger, or more obvious scale I can look back and be seriously proud to have studied abroad at the top university in Asia, to have achieved my 2:1 in Politics, to have thrown myself well and truly into the deep end in China and come out with a Mandarin qualification, to have lived in the Netherlands for 3 months and left with lifelong friends and to have travelled around the West Bank.

This list is not to congratulate myself; it is to show that there are battles that can be won. Are there battles that I lose? – Dear God yes, too many to list. I get through it by taking my medication (the stigma around medication can absolutely fuck off), kickboxing, laughing, sleeping and being surrounded by friends and family that love me and wine – must not forget wine.

Lucy – 1 Anxiety – 999,999.

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