It blows my mind the volume of donations that we receive at Refuweegee during the festive period. There is no denying that some years we receive a lot of things that definitely should have skipped us and gone straight to the dump, but 2019 was not one of those years.

From social media competition tags resulting in a donation of fleeces from Craghoppers, to Christmas hampers from people who recognise that there are families in this city who need its contents far more than theirs does; to children donating their inheritance from passed away grandparents. We finish the year bursting with pride for Glasgow and its residents.

The team spent the week before Christmas dashing between Byres Road, The Glad Café, Braw Wee Emporium and The Briggait because each was bursting with boxes and bags put together to welcome those most recently arrived; toys for recently arrived children, toiletries for all the family, board games to provide holiday entertainment, jackets and winter woollies to keep everyone warm and giftbags all labelled up with new outfits for the new year.

Whilst there is no denying that occasionally the volume is overwhelming, the thought that has gone into this year’s donations is second to none. We of course still have a long way to go in regards to consumer culture and questioning why the majority of this excess exists in the first place, however whilst it does exist we will continue to use it to welcome those newest to our shores and pass on to those in our communities who need it most.

An upgraded mobile phone for someone this Christmas meant that we could pass on the old handset to a family who desperately wanted Santa to bring one for their teenage daughter. Whilst this is a nice to do rather than a need to do, the impact of social exclusion and isolation should not be underestimated.

Especially when it comes to the mental health of a teenager who has already been through unimaginable upheaval and trauma. The otherwise discarded, mobile means she is no longer cut off from her friends the minute she leaves the school gates or unintentionally excluded from the details of the next meet up.

The donations we receive are of course not limited to items that can be included in a welcome pack. Experiences are offered up by organisations, groups, theatres, football clubs and people in the city who understand the importance of the simplest of Scottish phrases ‘come away in’. Spaces that are so often exclusionary either as a result of price or language or both, have been opened up by those within them.

The impact of sharing in an experience in their new city should not be underestimated. Friendships have been formed in the crowd at a football match, conversations have erupted in the pantomime around Scots phrases not yet understood. Sharing laughter or a conversation at an event is far easier for many and far more impactful for all, than the sharing of items.

So in thanks to everyone who has made 2019 our best yet and to give hope to those who may be ending this year feeling less than inspired; I share with you a message received from one of the recipients of the kindness that this city has extended to them. A message to each and every person that makes Glasgow the friendly and welcoming city that we know it to be;

“We cannot thank you guys enough for everything you have done to give us hope, knowing all is not lost. Do remember we’re grateful and will not forget in a hurry. God bless your kind hearts and reward you in ways that’s beyond human comprehension. Indeed you can’t imagine the level of relief your support gives us as a family. The burden and frustration it takes away from us is beyond words.

Sometimes I particularly wonder what life here would have been without your assistance every step of the way. You are like our guardian angels. Thank you from our hearts. The attitude of compassion you guys exhibit is worth much more than the items you make available to those who need them desperately. I pray that someday, I’ll be able to make more meaningful contribution towards this work of charity that you guys do…just having a very sober reflection of our situation as a family. You are making a difference in the lives of broken people.”

Well done Glasgow!