Thursday, 9 February 2012

Bridging the gap in Glasgow

POVERTY Truth Commissioner Tricia McConalogue is a key player in Bridging the Gap, a church-based project which seeks to build bridges for change in Glasgow.

Co-ordinator Tricia explains: "In 1998 a local priest and minister were aware of the territorialism and division in the community and began organising events involving school children that crossed the divide."

She continues: "A few years later when Glasgow became home to a large number of asylum seekers, the local community asked us to step in and take the lead on integrating the new people into the community."

Keen to help, Bridging the Gap provided English classes and gave practical help with essential food and clothing parcels.

While this was well-received by the asylum seekers, they found it did create some division in the community. "Gorbals has lots of people living in poverty, not just asylum seekers," explains Tricia. "It  became hard to justify why we were [seemingly] helping one group over another." So they changed the services they offered and began a drop-in centre open to everyone. '

"Every Thursday we have up to 60 adults and children come and join us, representing a wide range of ethnicities and backgrounds. The idea is to get the community integrated and to break down barriers so we do all sorts of activities together."

These include ‘keep fit’, games, a Samba band and workshops on things like flower arranging. They’ve worked with a local choir, got different people to cook meals from different cultures and have talks about different faiths to break down myths about religions and beliefs.

They run five big celebration events a year too and a separate women’s group has grown out of the drop-in centre. The women's group play Bingo and have fish suppers as well as working on joint projects like making a quilt that represents their different stories.

The Bridging the Gap team still do advocacy work for asylum seekers to help them in their claims and have found that volunteer placements can have a very positive effect. In fact their volunteer programme is open to anyone who is out of work and wants to keep up their skills or learn new ones.

With thanks to Bridging the Gap

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