I know you all were expecting the next chapter of our trip to France, but I have decided to insert, instead, the highlight for me of our trip to Scotland. With all of the negative, depressing stories in the news recently, I did not want to wait for several weeks to publish this story. It is a tale of people doing good for those in need – people too often demonized and abused when they desperately need the Good Samaritans of this world.
When planning our European trip, one of the countries I decided to visit was Scotland, since my son-in-law’s ancestors had come to the United States from that country, though it was unclear from which part they came. The only cities I had heard of in Scotland were Edinburgh and Glasgow, and not knowing very much about either one, decided on Glasgow just because…..and I am so glad I did.
Upon researching Glasgow, an article popped up about an organization called Refuweegee, and it is a fascinating story of how one person with a desire to help can make a difference. In this instance, that woman is Selina Hales. Deciding that I wanted to find out more about their work and meet these wonderful people who were helping those in need, I sent in a donation by PayPal and asked if we could pay them a visit and it was agreed that we could visit on July 19th. And so Brenna and I went shopping for teddy bears, toiletries and stationery to donate.
We arrived at the address, donations in hand, at the appointed time, but were slightly confused as we didn’t see a number displayed on the building, and once inside were met by Selina and Sarah MacPherson. We were guided upstairs to their office, crowded with computers, correspondence and donations.
Selina Hales and Sarah MacPherson in their tiny office
People all over the world have heard about the crisis in Syria – families fleeing the violence of war and ending up on the shores of the island of Lesbos and from there living in camps in Lesbos and Calais.
With young children and a job, Selina could not pick up and go to the camps, but instead thought of ways in which she could assist the refugees who came to Glasgow, and so Refuweegee was born.
noun – A person who upon
arrival in Glasgow is embraced
by the people of the city, a person
considered to be local
see also Glaswegian –
We’re all fae somewhere
The way in which the new arrivals to Glasgow are helped is through welcome packs, in which the community of Glasgow is highly involved. These welcome packs consist of toiletries, clothing, toys and stationery.
What makes these welcome packs personal and special are the “letters from the locals.” These consist of letters and cards written by individuals to welcome the recipients to the community – much nicer and more heartwarming than a typical form letter.
copy of one of the special “letters from the locals”
In another room is the bulk of the donations – wall-to-wall and practically floor-to-ceiling donations of clothing, bedding, toys, toiletries, cosmetics, and just about anything you can think of.
Since I had worked with refugees in Sub-Saharan Africa and knew the emotional toll this type of work can take on the caregivers and volunteers, I asked her how she handled it. Selina told me that she did not solicit information about what they had gone through to get to Glasgow nor what horrors they had faced in the home country. Her mission was to help them cope with the different world in which they now found themselves.
She simply asks what they need and then tries to help with those needs. Perhaps they need clothing, toys and toiletries, but they might also need lodging or help with language skills, and she does her best to accommodate them.
One anecdote, which I could definitely appreciate, regards learning the English language. The Glaswegian accent can be quite difficult to understand, even for a native English speaker like me. I had the darndest time trying to understand our taxi driver, so I could just imagine what non-English speakers would go through. Selina said, considering how strong that accent is, that they would concentrate on teaching the Syrians plain English to start.
With many places throughout the world demonizing refugees who are simply fleeing violence and looking for a safe place for themselves and their families to live – with all of the hate speech and suspicion, it is wonderful to see the people of Refuweegee and the people of Glasgow doing so much to create a safe haven for these displaced people.
Recipients of the welcome packs are encouraged to write back and share their stories, and this project has been such a success that their help has extended beyond just the Syrian refugees.
I can only imagine what a magically beautiful gift life would be if the world was only filled with such compassionate souls. I am speechlessly heartened by such a nice and unexpected act of love and humanity in my moments of despair.
I am forever indebted
Visiting this wonderful place and hearing all about their caring and compassionate work with the Syrians, and the response of the people of Glasgow to the needs of the strangers in their midst seeking safety is going a long way to restoring my faith in humanity. I am so glad to have stumbled upon the information when researching Glasgow and for the opportunity through this blog to share their good work with all of you.
Selina Hales, Sarah MacPherson, Brenna and me
To read more about Selina and Refuweegee, you can click on these links:
and click here to donate: