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Volunteering with Syrian Refugees

In today’s blog, our last before Christmas, I’m pleased to introduce you to our new HR and Employment Law Adviser, Katie Pearson. Katie has a First Class Honours Law and History degree from Glasgow University.  Having specialised in employment, anti-discrimination and social welfare law, Katie is now studying in the evenings for a CIPD qualification in HR and has worked for the past 18 months at IntoWork, a charity specialising in helping people with disabilities to find and retain employment.  

Katie has also completed a Saltire Foundation internship in the HR team at GE Oil and Gas, Aberdeen, and been an adviser to members of the public at Citizen’s Advice Direct. 

We’re delighted that someone with Katie’s qualifications and wide variety of relevant experience has joined our team and are sure that she will flourish here.  Hopefully you will meet Katie in person in 2017.  In the meantime, do get in touch with her if you have any HR queries and she’ll be very happy to help.  

At interview, Cat MacLean (our Head of Dispute Resolution) and I were fascinated to hear about Katie’s experience volunteering with Syrian refugees in Serbia, as they were on their way to Germany. 

As you know, we normally write blogs about new employment law legislation, important cases and topical aspects of HR.  However, as a Christmas “one off”, at a time when we feel more keenly the importance of family and friends and our thoughts turn to those less fortunate than us, we thought you too would like to hear about Katie’s encounter with a little girl caught in the middle of the refugee crisis. If you have five minutes, it’s worth a read…

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year,

Hannah, Debbie and Katie.

"She saw me before I saw her.  I spotted her hiding behind one of the bedposts a few feet away from me while most of the other refugees were still sleeping.  Slowly after a lot of shy smiles and waves, she came over to where I was sitting. I showed her some funny pictures on my phone of dogs and cats and she giggled.  After this, she surprised me by suddenly clinging to my leg and hugging me.  She wouldn’t let go for a long time.  I remember thinking that she just needed a hug to feel safe and loved for a few minutes in the chaos of the uprooted world around her.  Her name was Mossama.

I was in Serbia, volunteering in a makeshift camp that sheltered Syrian refugees for a few nights on their journey to Germany.  Serbia was a pivotal stop for the refugees.  This was not just because there was more relief provision, or because it was free from the dangers of Greek waters and traffickers, but because it represented a transition from refugees fighting for their survival, to their return to some sense of normality.  There was space for people to feel safe, and to find pieces of the identity that they had lost since they were forced from their homes by bombs and insurgents. 

Once they reached Serbia, the refugees no longer had to pay for onward travel.  And Croatia, (their next stop) was in the EU, so many of the people that I met were hopeful about their journey ahead.  However, after a couple of days handing out clothing to refugees, I quickly realised that like much of life, the crisis was so much more complicated than I had first imagined.  There was such a complexity to the suffering and grief, rather than an obvious need that could be easily met by foreign visitors.

I realised that people were putting on different faces to cope with the trauma they had been through.  For example, some women were still in survival mode and would constantly collect clothing and other items for their children.  This is understandable when you think that they don’t know what is coming up ahead, or where their children’s next clean outfits will come from.  For others their suffering took on the face of withdrawal.  They stood back, and could barely pay attention to their kids, let alone play with them and provide them with the reassurance they needed.

The little girl from the camp and I stayed friends for the rest of my week in Serbia.  I was thrilled to see Mossama transform from a vulnerable child who just needed a hug, to a confident and fun loving girl who was crazy about playing games and running around.  I even found out that she had a bit of an attitude.  She would demand that the other kids shared with her, and that she could join in the older children’s games.  By the time I waved her off at the end of the week I felt that knew her real personality.  I could see the little girl she would have been had her country not erupted into conflict and she was allowed to stay in her home.

I don’t know where Mossama is now.  But I hope she finds a safe home and grows up to become the intelligent, enthusiastic, and skilled contributor to society that I know she could be. 

There are hundreds of thousands of little Mossamas being born into hideous warzones every day.

It is difficult for me not to feel helpless when I think about this.  Since I returned to Scotland, I have been determined to help in whatever way I can, but I know I could still do more.  Sometimes though, Mossama’s story is enough to share the human narrative behind the newspaper headlines.


This is Mossama and me."


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