Like many others, I was driven to get involved with the #refugeeswelcome movement by the pictures of Alan Kurdi in the media last September. With the support of other people in the community who were similarly moved to take action, I set up Pitlochry Refugee Support, a small group of volunteers in Highland Perthshire.
In the short time since we have been established, we have raised over £3000 for Medecins Sans Frontieres and The Red Cross with a series of events including Pitlochry’s Big Hearted Ceilidh, Pub Quiz Nights and a thrift shop. We collect clothes and other items for refugees, which are distributed through Dundee the Caring City, and have recently got our local schools involved in the TeddyAid project, sending soft toys to refugee children.
We are affiliated with Citizens UK, who provided training for some of us last November on community organising and lobbying. Along with other refugee support groups across the UK, we have been involved in lobbying for the UK government to accept more refugees; we want them to increase the number from the current figure of 20,000 to 50,000 in the UK over the next five years, 10,000 of those in Scotland, and to speed up the resettlement process. We have also been supporting Perth and Kinross Council in their resettlement of new Syrian refugee arrivals, providing Christmas presents for the children and liaising with the Church of Scotland to supply them with school backpacks.
I am particularly keen to ensure the UK does all it can to bring as many unaccompanied child refugees to safety as possible. Citizens UK are campaigning for each local authority in the UK to accept at least five unaccompanied minors over the next year. I want to be able to tell my children that I did everything in my power to make a difference to people searching for a safe place to live.