Our project is called Sawa which is the Arabic word for ‘together’ in Syrian Arabic. We want to use this opportunity to build on what was learned through the previously funded (Scottish Refugee Council) Sharing Lives Sharing language mentoring project which took place here on Bute before the lockdown in March 2020. Based on the mentoring project we are aiming to create more structured opportunities for volunteering and participate in the culture and leisure service opportunities available within the community. We want to create scope for positive community links and to improve on language learned in the ESOL classroom for the New Scot’s, we also want to provide positive opportunities and a way for local people to get to know the New Scots living on Bute, working in partnership and sharing experiences.
Our main objectives are to encourage and support the New Scots in Bute to be more engaged in their local community by breaking down barriers.
Mount Stuart Trust, Live Argyll and Argyll College UHI
07/09/2021 – 30/11/2022
Refugees on Bute
Spreading good practice
We speak to our New Scots community very regularly. There is a support team with support worker/interpreters who are in daily contact. The New Scots arrived in the UK with little or no English language skills and some have very little education and literacies in Arabic. Being able to meet up with local people and getting to know about Scottish culture and finding ways to integrate has been difficult with the recent COVID restrictions. Some have difficulties with their mental health, they lack confidence to participate in the community without support. The New Scots living on Bute are families, it is important for them to learn English and integrate for the sake of their children. They want to know more about what the future holds for them and their children and haven’t been able to work out things like the labour market and education yet. Integrating more will help them to encourage their children to get involved in activities in the community.
Involvement of New Scots in project
I feel nearly all the refugees engaged with us to a lesser or greater degree because the Isle of Bute is quite small – around 6,000 people – and it would become known to us if there was a family that wasn’t engaging – nearly all the refugees attended some of the events for example days at Mount Stuart, the children’s pantomime etc. Amongst the recent arrivals the take up of leisure passes etc. was more or less one hundred per cent.
The translators would soon let us know of newly arrived families, as would the job centre, schools, social services etc.
Overall the project has been a great success – activities were altered a little bit to suit demand , also the expected client group changed, initially the application was written up with a Muslim clientele mostly in mind as the majority of the refugees previously came from Syria and fitted into that category but then the whole Ukrainian situation developed and now nearly half of our refugees come from there – this also affected the number of people we were dealing with and other resource issues such as translators and so on. Also the Syrians exclusively are housed in Rothesay in local housing association homes but half of the Ukrainians are staying in local people’s houses all round the Isle of Bute.
The main challenge was ongoing funding , to begin with our funding situation was good – because of the slow start we had a bit of money to spare – but then the main challenge became how to continue the good work started even next year this will be a challenge as our sessional budget etc. will certainly be smaller but this year has allowed us to build up a good volunteer basis which means even with a minimal budget the project will still be able to proceed and meet its core objectives.
We have learned that different groups can work well together when they have a common purpose and that the island here is actually very welcoming and more flexible in terms of accommodating different types of people than many might have anticipated. Due to the Covid situation, the project got off to a slow start but has more than made up for that. Fortunately this has been recognised by Argyll and Bute Council who will now continue to fund the project until next September.
We have gradually built up our own methodology which to a degree has now been passed out throughout the whole of Argyll and Bute as we take part in regular meetings. The Ukrainians have been dispersed throughout the whole of the region including in rural areas, participants in these areas took part online in the English SAWA classes so in that way the project has been rolled out. We are in the process of doing ongoing evaluation and are asking our New Scots community about all aspects of their lives on Bute. We will continue to consult with them about the SAWA programme as it develops, we are of course available for consultation – our video channel on youtube has been well watched and demonstrates some of our activities and to a degree shows some of our methodology.