Former Berwickshire woman’s efforts to help refugees arriving in Scotland being supported by students learning about textiles

Selena Hales
Selena Hales

While the world looks on as America refuses to allow refugees into the country, those arriving in Scotland are guaranteed a warm welcome.

Selina Hales, formerly of Coldingham, set up Refuweegee in 2015 to ensure that refugees arriving in Scotland are greeted with welcome packs given to them by Scots wanting them to feel accepted in their new home.

Children's packs prepared at Eyemouth to be given to refugees arriving in Scotland

Children's packs prepared at Eyemouth to be given to refugees arriving in Scotland

When refugees arrive here, they are given welcome packs that contain food and toiletries, maps and blankets, toys and books for their children and letters full of advice about Glasgow and other parts of the country.

“Welcome to this funny, complicated, rainy, friendly, passionate city,” reads one letter, while another says: “Welcome to Glasgow, but I must warn you about the bad weather.”

Selina’s favourite is: “You’re home noo. Help yerselves to the biscuits.”

Selina, now living in Glasgow with her husband Ross and two young children, gave up her job as a project manager to set up Refuweegee, and she worked 18-hour days for eight months to make it a success.

Her tireless efforts to welcome refugees are now receiving recognition across Scotland.

As well as being shortlisted for the title of Scottish woman of the year by the Glasgow Evening Times, Selina was also in the running to be named diversity hero of the year by the city’s Herald newspaper and GenAnalytics.

On top of that, Refuweegee was shortlisted for an award for best diversity marketing and social issues campaign of 2016.

“I was watching a news report about what was happening in Syria and saw footage of families at the Hungarian border as it was closing, being held back by riot police,” said Selina.

“There was a man, with a wall in front of him and a war behind him, wiping tear gas off the face of his tiny baby strapped to his chest, and I decided I had to do something to help, something here in Glasgow that would allow local people to help too.

“With 65 million people being displaced around the world, I realised this could happen to any one of us at any time, and that is shocking and terrifying.

“It is not acceptable, therefore, to let it happen to others and not respond.

“As well as welcoming people to Glasgow, we want to raise awareness of immigration and understand that communities are the key to helping people integrate.”

Initially, the project responded to the plight of Syrians arriving in Glasgow but it has since broadened its welcome to include all refugees and asylum seekers.

And it looks like Selina has inspired others to do the same. A number of Scottish cities are now looking at creating a similar model.