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”
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.
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:
“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.
Some projects to consider getting involved in or giving money to are –
Instagram – #refugeeswelcometoscotland