Refugees 2: the winter aid sent by Scotland to camps

A shipment of clothing and other winter aid from across Scotland is due to leave this week, as part of a concerted effort to help desperate refugees from Syria and other war-torn nations.

The charity Glasgow the Caring City is co-ordinating the transportation of donations from Scotland to refugee camps.

But the strength of support is demonstrated by the efforts of a group of six Glasgow women, who set up Bare Facts, dedicated to discussing issues in a sociable atmosphere, in the wake of the divisive independence referendum in 2014.

Alex Mackenzie, Lesley Maclean, Emma Cairns, and three others wanted to get past the hype and the political posturing, so they started organising events, inviting experts to explain to the audience what the impact of various policy and economic choices might be, but bringing in musicians too.

The events were a success, the last ones in Glasgow’s Cottiers and the CCA attended by more than 200 people. But the Bare Facts team had families, work, studies, and felt they needed to take a break.

That, however, did not last long – their passion for social issues soon got them organising something else: a winter clothing drive for refugees.

Donations from the speaking events had gone to various charities, including Refugee Action Scotland and Glasgow the Caring City.

Through their connections to those charities, the Bare Facts team learned about the grim situation in the Syrian refugee camps scattered across Eastern Europe: people who had fled their homes with nothing, who were now facing a cold winter with no coats, blankets, or any kind of warm clothing.

“A coat for a child makes a difference as to whether they live through the winter, or not,” Alex says.

She and Lesley knew John Haggerty, the owner of the Caledonian Taekwondo Centre in Knightswood, through the local nursery school.  When they realized that the clothing drive needed a main drop-off point, they talked to him and he was happy to volunteer his gym.

Soon they began receiving a steady flow of winter clothes from all over the country. “It’s mushroomed.  It’s broadened out from just Glasgow,” Lesley said.

People from as far away as Skye and London have brought clothing.  They’ve had collectors from Colonsay and Stirling, and various points in between.

“It’s tapped into something. People feel helpless,” reflects Alex.  “Now they can try to help and not be passive.”

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