I’d like to talk about one of Glasgow’s newest and most brilliantly named charities as we warm up to the festive season – Refuweegee. It’s such a simple concept, but with the power to do so much good.
Refuweegee was established by the incomparable, indefatigable and frankly brilliant Selina Hales. Her reaction to the refugee crisis is a community based project, set up to welcome refugees to the city. Simply put, it collects handwritten letters and starter packs donated by ordinary Glaswegians and gives them to new arrivals.
The lady behind Refuweegee
I first met Selina a few years ago when she worked on a recruitment project with me at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. Then, I was so impressed with her energy and enthusiasm.
We stayed loosely in touch over the next few years; bumping into each other with buggies and sending the odd text as we tried to keep our careers on the go as working mums.
Refuweegee starting out
When I got an email from Selina explaining that she’d started a charity with the aim of welcoming refugees to Glasgow I was pretty much in awe.
I, like so many others had been watching news of the migrant crisis with increasing horror and sorrow. Here was Selina, with two small kids and a responsible job, doing something tangible to help.
I spent my teeny amount of ‘spare time’ (a hilarious concept for a working Mum) watching Netflix: Selina was working out how she could make a tangible difference to people’s lives. I still think she may secretly be Superwoman.
Over coffee, Selina told me that while she knew she couldn’t follow her heart to Calais to provide aid, she knew she could do something meaningful in Glasgow. Refuweegee was born.
Quite rightly, it’s grown arms and legs since then. Many have become involved: by writing a welcome note, donating to welcome packs or giving their time to help organise behind the scenes. I’ve been delighted to be able to offer some bits and pieces here and there too.
What I love about Refuweegee
The heart and soul of the welcome packs are the ‘letters from the locals’ – notes, cards, letters or even post-its from the people of Glasgow.
In their own humble way these packs hope to help refugees, who have left their whole world behind, feel they are safe and welcome; that they can build a future here.
But more than that, Refuweegee also gives us locals the chance do something real and human to welcome people who have been through so much. Given the hatred and suspicion spread by a small but vocal minority about refugees in the last few years, this is a chance for many of us to redress the balance and show some love!
After all as Refuweegee’s excellent tagline says: ‘we’re all fae somewhere’.