I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you the following update I received this week from Alana Nabulsi our colleague in Communities, Housing and Infrastructure.
This week saw the arrival of our 83rd Syrian New Scot in Aberdeen. That’s now 19 households that we’ve settled since March last year and just a further 17 individuals to resettle in order to meet our commitment of 100. In this time we’ve also welcomed 5 babies with many more on their way!
Last Saturday we celebrated Refugee Festival Scotland for the second time. This year the theme was Connections and we took the opportunity to bring all our families together with the volunteers from the community who have worked so hard to welcome and support them over the last year and a half. Elphinstone Hall was generously made available to us and we hosted a massive conversation café in the spirit of bringing people together, cementing and celebrating connections already made, and fostering new ones. If I had had my way, Guinness World Records would have been invited in a world record attempt to host the world’s largest conversation café…. Thankfully my colleagues and partners at GREC, the University of Aberdeen, ACVO, various churches, Aberdeen Mosque and Islamic Centre held me in check! We’ll see what opportunities next year brings to celebrate community!
Very quickly, we had two performances at the event – Naser Al Rawas, Syrian New Scot who arrived in November last year, sang for us beautiful songs about Syria and the home he and his family have found in Aberdeen. Hind Abu Dabos also contributed movingly… she worked with celebrated local author, Leila Aboulela, to write a story about her experience arriving in Aberdeen as a refugee. She read out this story in English in front of a huge audience and proved herself to be a huge asset to the community and a role model for all. The Lord Provost was kind enough to attend and help us say thank you to all our volunteers and we hosted several tables with GREC, ACVO, Aberdeen International Youth Festival, Visit Syria, Learn Arabic, ESOL opportunities within Aberdeen, What’s on This Summer, to name just a few. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had help to run activities for the kids – all in all a fantastic turn out and great benchmark for next year’s festival celebration.
From 31st July we will be hosting the second part of our radio drama project. Participants will be working with a director and production team to rehearse and record the drama they previously developed. BBC Scotland have expressed interest in recording this and it’s looking likely that they will also be broadcasting the short documentary that has been filmed about the project which now spans several cities across Scotland and abroad.
We are also completing final planning detail for the experience funded by Give Them A Sporting Chance. We’ve settled on a day out at the Highland Games in Ballater on August 10th followed by a meal that will bring all our families together. The charity has been tremendously generous and we are delighted to be able to give families a flavour of a Scottish summer holiday. In turn, our families will help fund raise for a nominated charity and help continue the amazing work.
Some of our families have now been here for over a year so we’re phasing out case management support and increasingly handing over to the community for continued support and integration. We have approximately 20 learners in college as of the new academic year and many individuals now attempting driving tests (fourth time lucky!), working increasingly as volunteers and searching for ways to give back to the communities that have welcomed them with open arms. The As’Salaam Project is also making great progress and ACVO have been wonderfully helpful with guidance and support to this burgeoning group. Committee skills training and a development workshop are in the diary to further assist them to put together an action plan and vision for the coming year. I’ll share further information in due course.
On behalf of all the families and the Refugee Project Team, many thanks for your continued support!
Tremendous work of which we can all be very proud. Well done Alana and all your colleagues within and outwith the Council.