The People of Bute
At the height of the migrant crisis, an island community threw open their doors and their hearts to families fleeing the war in Syria.
At the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, an island community came together to offer the warmest of welcomes, support and hope to families fleeing war and persecution.
In 2015, 24 Syrian families arrived on the Isle of Bute as part of the UK’s pledge to welcome 20,000 people fleeing the war-torn country.
At a time when not everyone in Britain was open to new arrivals, the people of Bute were determined to help the families get settled and used to their new life.
Angela Cunningham led the island’s reception committee, and also helped organise donations of everything from shoes and blankets to spices and chickpeas to make the newcomers feel welcome. Angela also repurposed the food bank she runs on Bute, one of Scotland’s most deprived areas, to help the new residents.
Five years on, 17 families remain on Bute, putting down roots including some who have started their own businesses including a hairdresser, Syrian takeaway and bakery. They learned English and the children are a part of the local schools, speaking English with broad Scottish accents. Other families have settled elsewhere in Scotland.
In one of the most heartwarming moments of Pride of Scotland, actress Blythe Duff travelled to Bute to meet the islanders, old and new, and discover what makes them so deserving of the TSB Community Heroes Award.
In an open-air presentation in Rothesay, she told them: “I can tell you how much of a privilege this is, not only to be back on the Isle of Bute, which has a special place in my heart, but just to be amongst the community because I know how well you embrace people on this island. And I know for a fact that’s what you’ve done, so I’m delighted to award you the Pride of Scotland TSB Community Heroes award. Congratulations.”