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Warm welcome for migrants and refugees

February 1, 2017

megan-weddingEarlier this year the Welcoming Association was awarded £142,079 of National Lottery funding to run a befriending scheme providing one-to-one support to newly-arrived migrants and refugees, as well as a programme of workshops and visits to help them integrate into their new communities.

Since then volunteers, migrants and refugees have enjoyed some special moments getting to know each other, which Caitlin from the Welcoming Association has been able to share with us in this blog post.

Wedding snaps

Megan, who grew up overseas, joined the Welcoming’s befriending programme hoping to gain some new friends, learn more about people from other nations, and understand more about how refugees settle in Scotland: “I valued friendship when I was new [to Scotland] and learning how to integrate into my new community, and I would like to return that experience to someone else who is new.”

wedding-megan2Over the past few months Megan has been spending time with a young Syrian family to help them to settle into life in Edinburgh. Megan said the moment that she felt connected with the young couple was when she shared her wedding album with them. They spent almost two hours together looking through the photos: “It was a beautiful experience and really brought us together.”

What’s cooking?

Coffee and good food seem to lie at the heart of the Welcoming Friendship project. Sabine, a befriending volunteer matched with a family from Syria, decided to host a Sunday dinner to get to know each other.

Sabine cooked lamb for the family but, upon realising the meat wasn’t halal, rushed out and bought halal lamb from the shops. Sabine then served dinner only to find that, in Syria, families aren’t used to eating cooked food for dinner (instead generally eating simple breads and dips) and usually only have hot food for lunch. As a result, the family had already eaten a large meal beforehand and didn’t touch the lamb, meaning Sabine was left with enough lamb to last a week… despite being a vegetarian!

Sabine said, “It’s all about learning from each other and adapting to new situations.” It’s a fine example of cultural diversity and the importance of being able to laugh with each other when things don’t go according to plan.

Learning together

dareen and teresa.jpgTeresa and her new friend Dareen, from Syria, have been meeting up regularly for a coffee and some English practice. To mix things up, the pair attended the Welcoming’s weekly Arabic café together, allowing Teresa the opportunity to practise some greetings in Arabic.

Teresa said, “It’s a privilege to be able to welcome Dareen and her family to our city and the local community after the hardship they have endured. As citizens of the world we need to reach out and help others in time of need. I’m enjoying learning about Dareen’s culture and her wonderful home cooking.”

You can find out more about the Welcoming Association’s activities and how to get involved here.

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