We made our radio debut this week on the BBC Radio Scotland’s Kaye Adams show. Volunteer Befriender, Zora King, and Ahmed Al Houlani, a newcomer from Syria discussed how their involvement in ‘Welcoming Friendship’ befriending programme has been mutually beneficial. They talk to Kaye about how befriending supports integration for refugees. [slideshow_deploy id=’4052′] The BBC’s campaign #ChooseToChat aims to reduce loneliness and isolation by getting people talking. Zora and Ahmed were introduced through ‘Welcoming Friendship’. Newcomers and volunteers who join the befriending programme are asked about their hobbies and interests. Zora plays the flute, Ahmed has always wanted to learn the flute. The pair were introduced and have thoroughly enjoyed exploring their love of music, practising English, spending time with Ahmed’s family and sharing lots of delicious meals. Listen to what Ahmed and Zora have to say:
This week we say a fond farewell to Befriending Volunteer, Mikey as he moves to London to start a new job. Mikey has been a fantastic support, helping out at our weekly conversation cafe and meeting up with newcomer, Omar within our befriending programme ‘Welcoming Friendship’. The pair have enjoyed exploring Edinburgh together, with walks along the Water of Leith and trips to the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art and the Scottish National Museum. With Mikey’s departure, we introduce Alex, as a new Volunteer Befriender. We hope that Alex and Omar will enjoy getting to know one another, sharing cultures and exploring Edinburgh together. We wish Mikey all the best with his new job and move to London and thank him for all the great support!
Celebrating 40 Befriending Matches
This week we celebrate our 40th befriending match! Welcoming Friendship funded by Big Lottery Fund offers newcomers an opportunity to practise their English and get to know Edinburgh. At the same time giving local volunteers an opportunity to make someone feel welcome and share local knowledge. It allows both a unique opportunity to make friends and enjoy learning about one another’s culture!
We match newcomers with local volunteers we think they’ll get along with! It could be that
they share a common interest, have similar professional backgrounds, live in the same area or have kids of a similar age.
We’ve come a long way since our first match in autumn 2016. Here’s to many more successful, fulfilling and enjoyable befriending matches!
The Big Blog Scotland
We were recently invited to write about our work in the Big Lottery’s weekly blog. At our monthly befrienders’ peer support session we asked volunteers about activities they had enjoyed sharing with newcomers. Lots of fun activities emerged, from looking at wedding photos, to cooking and practising English together. You can read our blog post here. Our befriending programme Welcoming Friendship is funded by Big Lottery.
Theatrical Thursday with friends
We had a fun-filled trip to see Black Beauty, thanks to Red Bridge Arts for their kind invitation. Our diverse, multi-cultural group included newcomers from Syria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Italy (along with one token Scot!) There was lots of laughter amidst confusion over in-jokes about Edinburgh’s Maybury roundabout and Crombies the butchers!
One newcomer said ‘We laughed a lot, we spent a beautiful morning with friends.’
Thanks to Red Bridge for inviting us and Traverse Theatre for making us feel so welcome!
Friendship comes in all shapes and sizes!
Today we launch the Welcoming Friendship Club! A weekly club connecting migrants and refugees who are new to Edinburgh, meeting each week to support one another as they settle into life in their new communities. The club, facilitated by Nick a local volunteer, offers a warm, welcoming space to make friends and practise English. Our befriending programme Welcoming Friendship, funded by Big Lottery’s Improving Lives fund, promotes friendship in all shapes and sizes. As well as our Friendship Club, we facilitate and support one to one befriending and hold ‘Good Morning Friendship’ monthly coffee mornings, bringing together local volunteers and newcomers from all over the world to share a cuppa and some home-baking. Next week we open up a weekly Arabic café, in response to volunteers’ interest in learning some basic words and phrases. We invite Arabic speaking migrants and refugees to help us! We hope everyone will have fun learning together, sharing an Arabic coffee and snack and enjoying some Arabic music! For more information on Welcoming Friendship or to get involved please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Befrienders in Calais
Welcoming Friendship befrienders, Ellie and Vicki have set off for Calais where they’ll offer their support as the ‘Jungle’ camp awaits demolition. 7,000 official residents are expected to leave the camp by the end of this week, though the Help Refugees agency said the final population ahead of its demolition was 8,143. Ellie and Vicki, both medical students, previously volunteered together in a refugee camp in Greece where they set up a women’s tent. As if studying medicine and volunteering isn’t enough – Ellie completed her first marathon earlier this month in Amsterdam! Thanks to everyone who sponsored Ellie, funds raised will be shared between The Welcoming and KUNE Aid based in Greece. You can check out Ellie’s fundraising page here! We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated, compassionate and enthusiastic team of volunteer befrienders. We wish Ellie, Vicki and all residents and volunteers in Calais the very best. We’re thinking of you all.
We’re on the look out for new friends to help us make the Never-ending Friendship bracelet! If you would like to contribute to the Never-ending Friendship bracelet pop into The Welcoming. We’ll show you the ropes (it’s wool really!), do a few minutes of friendship bracelet making (or more if you like) following the step by step guide. Write your name and a message in our book, then pass the bracelet on to someone else. They follow the same steps, and pass it on, making friends along the way!
Contact Caitlin on 0131 346 8577 or email email@example.com for more information or to contribute to the Never-ending Friendship bracelet.
Friends who shop together…
After a fantastic trip to The Edinburgh Clothing Store this week, two Syrian families are now kitted out with warm clothing in preparation for their second winter in Scotland! The local charity is run by volunteers and offers free donated clothing, bedding, etc for people in genuine need. Volunteer Befriender, Sabine and Befriending Coordinator, Caitlin accompanied the ladies on the ‘shopping trip’. There were lots of laughs, especially with one of the ladies’ best efforts to squeeze into a beautiful winter coat which, unfortunately, was a few sizes too small! The ladies left with warm clothing for themselves, their children and husbands as well as bedding, pillows and blankets. We were delighted that one of the ladies choose this ‘I heart Scotland’ jumper for her 11 year old daughter! The Edinburgh Clothing Store accept donations of clothing, bedding and cash and are also greatly in need of large carrier bags. Thanks to everyone at The Edinburgh Clothing Store for all the help and to everyone who has made donations to allow them to continue this fantastic work!
Our wonderful befriending volunteer Ellie Strong is running the Amsterdam marathon on Sunday 16th October! It’s her first marathon and we are absolutely thrilled that’s she’s decided to raise funds for The Welcoming as well as KUNE Aid. Ellie recently volunteered with KUNE Aid, a charity set up by Swiss students, working with refugees in Greece. Ellie set up a Women’s Tent in the camp and enjoyed getting to know the women and young girls. In the short time we’ve known Ellie, she has shown warmth, compassion and dedication towards volunteers and newcomers alike. She will make a fantastic befriender and we’re excited to introduce her to her new friend when she returns! (We’ll wait a few days until her legs have recovered!) We would like to wish Ellie the best of luck! Her dedication and strength of mind will be sure to see her through the 26.2 miles! To check out Ellie’s page click here.
Good Luck New Friends
We have recruited and inducted a group of almost 40 local volunteers who we are now connecting with newcomers for one to one befriending as well as group activities! The matching process has been lots of fun! Our first pair, Al from Sudan and Ollie, a local volunteer had a very successful first meeting. Ollie brushed up on his beginners Arabic in preparation for meeting Al. They’re excited about sharing Sudanese and British culture and getting to know one another over the coming weeks and months! More introductions are taking place over the coming weeks, including a local volunteer flutist with a Syrian refugee who has always wanted to learn the flute! We wish all local volunteers and newcomers the best of luck with their new friendships!