We’re ending the year saying a very fond farewell to our Co-Director Elaine Mowat. Read about Elaine’s reflections on her time with the Welcoming. She’ll be greatly missed. We wish her all the best for the exciting things that lie ahead!
Lots has happened in the world since I joined the Welcoming on 1 December 2015. The first group of Syrian families had just arrived in Scotland as part of the Syrian Resettlement Programme, to a wintery day of gloomy skies and driving rain. Over 2000 of them have now settled in communities across the country. Donald Trump has become – and so far remained – President of the USA, a number of xenophobic leaders have won power in Europe and Brexit is causing chaos across Britain. The need for the Welcoming and a place where newcomers feel can safe and inspired and share positive experiences with locals and other newcomers feels more important than ever.
In those three years, thanks to support from funders, donors, partners and volunteers, we’ve also had the opportunity to grow our service, introduce all kinds of new activities and to learn from participants about the meaning and value of Welcoming. In this post, I offer some reflections, through the comments that our participants have shared.
‘The atmosphere is so friendly that we feel friendly too, making it easy to meet people.’
Why is the Welcoming community, a fluid and ever-changing group of people from many different backgrounds, nationalities, faiths, cultures and ages, always so open, friendly and supportive? It seems friendliness is catching and rolls on through the successive generations of Welcoming participants. For myself, I notice that the last 3 years of being surrounded by openness and diversity has made me much more open and curious too. Note to politicians about the benefits of nurturing a hospitable rather than a hostile environment – and these benefits are free of charge and long lasting too!
‘Thanks to The Welcoming, foreign people are like a resource and not a problem like in other countries.’
Every day at the Welcoming we see the talents, enthusiasm and energy that newcomers bring to Scotland and it is exciting to help people succeed in improving their English language skills, finding jobs, making friends, volunteering and contributing in all kinds of ways to the community. This includes contributing to our programme at the Welcoming – one of our most fun and rewarding developments has been making the space for our participants to run activities for us and each other, giving us all kinds of new insights and experiences from Arabic language to Brazilian capoeira, Italian dance and Syrian cooking.
‘The Welcoming is my guiding star here in Edinburgh.’
I loved this way of describing our service. Wherever we are, we all need a guiding star in life, with all the care, light and hopefulness that it represents. Thanks to all our funders, donors, supporters, partners, volunteers, participants and staff members who make this Welcoming star possible. It’s been a privilege to be part of it, and I wish everyone all the best for another exciting phase of development ahead under the new Director who brings immense capacity and great passion to the role.