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Refugee Week: A Guest Post from Victoria Williamson

Posted on 20/06/2018 in The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle Victoria Williamson

How can we help refugees? In this guest post for Refugee Week, Victoria Williamson considers some of the small acts of kindness in her debut novel The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle. Plus, read on to find out how you can help refugees feel at home in your community.


Refugee Week 2018 is from 18-24 June, and is a celebration of the contributions, resilience and creativity of refugees who have come to Britain in search of a safer home.

Often when we think of refugees, we imagine traumatised victims of war who are in need of our pity and charity, and we often don’t look beyond the sensational newspaper headlines to the individual stories each unique person brings with them. We also forget that there are many children living in the UK who, despite growing up in a country at peace, often have their own difficult experiences which might be every bit as hard for them to deal with.

Victoria Williamson at Refugee Week Scotland

Victoria Williamson and Rebecca Bates (Scottish Refugee Council) at Refugee Week Scotland

In The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, I chose to reflect these shared difficult childhood experiences by creating a dual narrative centred around two characters who have very different cultural, family and language backgrounds, and yet who share more in common than they could possibly have imagined.

Often we’re too wrapped in our own thoughts and feelings to think about the needs of others, and the characters in The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle are no exception. Caylin’s still grieving for her grandad who passed away, and absorbed with the task of looking after her depressed mother and keeping Social Services at bay. Reema’s consumed by the loss of her brother, the life she left behind in Syria, and the strangeness of the new country she finds herself in. Neither girl has time for the problems of the other. It’s only when they work together to care for an injured urban fox and her cubs in the back garden of their apartment building that they discover common ground. That’s when they start doing small but generous things for each other that make all the difference to their friendship.

Caylin sticks up for Reema when she’s being bullied about her headscarf.

Reema encourages Caylin to join the sports club when Caylin’s lack of confidence prevents her from doing the one thing she loves: running.

Caylin buys Reema an ice cream to remind her of the happier times she spent with her lost brother.

Reema invites Caylin to join in her family’s Eid al-Fitr celebration and shares her favourite food with her.

It’s these little acts of kindness that we can all do to help brighten someone else’s day, particularly if that person, like Reema, is a long way from home and uncertain of the welcome they’ll receive in a new country. Often when we see refugee issues on the news we think there’s nothing we can do – the problems are too big and require lots of money to solve.

When I was researching my novel however, I came across some of the organisations who work with refugees and got lots of great ideas for some of the ways you can help refugees that don’t require money.

Like to write?

Organisations like Refuweegee (https://refuweegee.co.uk) provide newly arrived refugees with welcome packs, and included in these are donated letters from people of all ages welcoming them into the country and wishing them well.

Like to get out and about and meet new people?

The Refugee Survival Trust (http://www.rst.org.uk/integration/befriending) and many other organisations run befriending projects which pair up newcomers to an area with people who’ve lived there much longer. The newcomers are introduced to the sights of the city – the free museums, galleries and parks – and the friendships that are formed during these outings often last long after the six-month projects come to an end.

Like to stay in for a cup of tea and chat?

The Cup of Tea with a Refugee campaign started in 2016, and now runs across Scotland, where local organisations like school, student and church groups can host an event to bring refugees together with people from the community to share a cup of tea and a chat. For details of how you can organise one, no matter where you are in the UK, go to: http://www.cupofteawitharefugee.com

Looking for more ideas?

Try one of the twenty ‘Simple Acts’ listed on the Refugee Week website – one for every day of the twenty years Refugee Week has been running: http://refugeeweek.org.uk/simple-acts/

These are just some of the many ways you can get involved in a small act of kindness for a refugee who is far from home. Even for those who, like Caylin, are living at home but struggling, something as simple as a few words of encouragement when they’re feeling down can make all the difference. Through working together Caylin and Reema see past their differences and find they share the same hopes, dreams and joys.

This is what Refugee Week is all about. If you’re based in Scotland, join in the celebrations for Refugee Festival Scotland, and see for yourself the vibrancy and diversity that is created in Scotland’s communities when we all work together to build a better world: https://www.refugeefestivalscotland.co.uk/

Victoria Williamson with a famous migrant – Paddington bear!


The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle – a perfect Refugee Week read

Under the grey Glasgow skies, twelve-year-old refugee Reema is struggling to find her place in a new country, with a new language and without her brother. But she isn’t the only one feeling lost. Her Glasgwegian neighbour Caylin is lonely and lashing out.

When they discover an injured fox and her cubs hiding on their estate, the girls form a wary friendship. And they are more alike than they could have imagined: they both love to run.

Heartfelt and full of hope, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is an uplifting story about the power of friendship and belonging. Inspired by her work with young asylum seekers, debut novelist Victoria Williamson‘s stunning story of displacement and discovery will speak to anyone who has ever asked ‘where do I belong?’

Victoria Williamson will donate 20% of her author royalties from this book to the Scottish Refugee Council. Order your copy here.

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