As a result, more than 160 children from the asylum seeker community among more than 1000 others, will be beneficiaries of special Christmas stockings filled with toys and warm clothes this Festive Season.
Mears - which operates the Home Office contract to provide accommodation and support for asylum seekers in Glasgow - has donated cash and provided help with packaging and distribution while company staff in Glasgow have given donations and their own time to assist during the pre-Christmas rush to make sure gifts reach children in time.
Mears has been helping the Glasgow’s Number One Baby and Family Support Service, affectionately known in the city as ‘The Baby Bank’, founded by Audrey Dempsey and which has generated goods to the value of £2.7m in just over 4 years since it was launched.
Mears’ efforts to assist Audrey and her colleagues have been warmly welcomed by former Afghan refugee Abdul Bostani who was forced to flee the Taliban 20 years ago and arrived in Scotland as a refugee when he was just 18.
The dad-of-six who is now settled in the country and is chairman of the Scottish Unity League, Managing Director of community-led organisation, Glasgow Afghan United, and Chairman of the Scottish Asylum Seeker and Refugee Forum said: “It’s great to see Mears and its staff reach out to help a charity helping the most vulnerable people in the community especially at this festival time, bringing smiles to the adorable faces of little children.”
Looking on as charity volunteers packed gift bags from a sea of brand new toys and clothes he added: “I congratulate Mears and its staff for this great and positive work with the charity and for carrying out this work with families receiving such support.”
While Christmas means peak activity for the charity, it operates all year round and in the last year the social value generated through the involvement of Mears staff is over £430,000, since the company took over the city’s Asylum Accommodation and Support Services contract.
Mears partnership manager Anne Kinghorn who has helped oversee the company’s staff involvement said every week housing and welfare managers from Mears,request additional items of clothing for children, babies and adults along with requests for household goods or specialised pieces of equipment and clothing which can range from swimming floats to bicycles.
Anne said the charity exists to support people who are in financial hardship and struggling to make ends meet and added: “We are especially proud of our staff who have become deeply involved and many Mears employees also use their volunteering days as part of the company’s social value aims.”
In addition, many asylum seekers who have benefited from help offered by the charity have in turn become volunteers at the Baby Bank which has helped themwith language skills and social integration.The charity has also benefited from unexpected supplies recently.
Anne said: “We received a tip off from one of our team which enabled us to receive three Transit vans worth of goods from a Clydebank charity which was closing a shop in Galashiels."
“Other local fundraising includes employees donating good quality items;raffles and donating cash.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic making it difficult for many people to donate goods by hand, Mears staff helped the charity set up an on-line scheme to let donors purchase gifts via Amazon Wish List.
Audrey Dempsey who runs the charity took time out from packing gifts to publicly acknowledge the work Mears and its staff have carried out and said:
The Mears staff are an absolute godsend to us. The work they do is absolutely fabulous. Their help allows us to focus on others in need and they also involve themselves in packing and the delivery of goods. Mears have organised a rota where staff have been drafted in to assist in packing, distribution and delivery of presents.
Each bag of presents includes a new warm winter coat or jacket and five new toys for each child with all goods selected being age and gender specific.
Audrey explained: “The Mears staff are amazing in the way they support us. They come here to help - many in their own time - and that can’t possibly be intheir job description. They go above and beyond the call of duty to help us out.
“The Mears Foundation also helped us with a grant which has been a great help and support.
“We are able to help those Mears service users but the company is also amazing in asking what they can do to help us in return - we help a lot of organisations, 119 in total, but Mears always ask what they can do to help us and are always there to help when we ask.
“We don’t get any council or Government financial or funding support so what Mears and its staff do for us is fantastic.”
In addition to the Christmas presents exercise, the charity works all year round and only closes for 2 weeks each year. They provide a broad range of basic needs help for those in need clothing packs (7 different outfits, 1 for each day of the week), shoes (3 pairs), toys, household goods (never just 1 item always multiples i.e. 2 pairs of curtains), furniture and household goods.
Praising asylum seekers who have been beneficiaries of the charity and returned to help out as volunteers, Audrey said: “It helps them become more socially aware, integrate in society and aid with their language development skills. We just can’t get enough help so it is of great assistance. They are a great help.”
Among those helping pack presents in the days before Christmas were Mears residential welfare managers Lorna Smith, Sean Trainer and Zac Louden.
Lorna, a member of the UNITE union, which has also donated to the charity,said: “The work the charity does here is invaluable throughout the year. They really do make miracles happen and the feedback from service users is amazing.It’s fantastic to see their faces - it’s overwhelming.”
Sean has previously helped deliver goods but recently experienced his firstshift packing gifts this year and enthused: “It's amazing and brilliant whatpeople have been doing, coming together to get this work done and give people aproper Christmas like they have never had before.”
Zac added: “I’ve only recently joined the company but I am so impressed withall this. It’s really opened my eyes … just seeing the kids’ faces isreally heart-warming.”
For further information and how to support‘Glasgow’s Number One Baby and Family Support Service’, visit their website: https://www.gn1bfss.com/