Volunteers help Syrian families settle in Scotland

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The Connect Borders event saw a celebration of links between Scotland and Syria

15th August 2017 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Volunteers have been helping Syrian families to settle in the Borders.

The Volunteer Centre Borders has brought together Syrian refugee families in the area with a range of service providers.

The project culminated in the Connect Borders event this summer, which was delivered as part of the Scottish Refugee Council’s Connect Refugee Festival Scotland programme.

The centre has been working with the four families who have been placed in the area, identifying volunteers that can help them and projects that they can become involved in.

“From the start we were part of an operational and strategic group,” said executive officer Gordon Brown.

“We were very clear that volunteers and volunteering was a pivotal way to make the families feel welcome, and to feel their presence.

“We took a two-pronged approach to get people to help them and also to identify opportunities to get involved in the community.”

The families in the area have complex needs, with several of the children being profoundly deaf.

The centre employed a community liaison manager, Abdul Nasan, to help the families integrate.

Brown said: “We ended up employing a local Syrian man, who was staying down here. He had already been a volunteer with the families, mainly acting as a translator. Language is such an important issue.

“He has been able to identify how best volunteers could help with the integration of the families.”

The project has now recruited around 40 volunteers and the Syrians have been involved in classes such as cooking, craft and sewing - boosting their confidence as well as their skills.

Talks and events on Syrian customs and beliefs have been held for local people, and a celebration event was held on 29 June aimed at celebrating the connections in the area.

Brown said: “The tables were absolutely covered with food that they had made themselves. It was authentic, homemade Syrian food. There were lots of cheese and meat dishes.

“The families got a real kick out of doing it and it was a great day.”