A DETERMINED Greenock woman who set up a support service from scratch for individuals and families from overseas arriving in Inverclyde is now helping over 150 people. 

Gaynor Lochhead took on Your Voice's New Scots project in September 2022. 

In just over a year at the helm, Gaynor has grown the number of people supported by the project from none at all to 44 individuals and families, with another 120 people on an active mailing list. 

Gaynor, who is the New Scots project co-ordinator, runs a drop-in every Friday from 11.30am-1.30pm and meets people on a one-to-one basis on a Monday and Tuesday. 

Gaynor added: "It's not until you look back that you realise how much has been achieved. 

"Awareness of the project is really growing and it's clear that it's making a huge impact. 

"We're helping people change their lives for the better as they settle here in Inverclyde."

To get in touch with New Scots individuals and families back in September last year, Gaynor started going along to the OYO Gin House Hotel in Greenock to meet families who had arrived from Ukraine and were living there.

She also found out where the English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) classes were in Inverclyde and started making connections there. 

At the Friday drop-ins, Gaynor now welcomes people from Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, France, Bulgaria and Ukraine. 

She proudly says that while the group started out with her leading the proceedings, the participants now drive the activities. 

Gaynor added: "There's such a varied range of cultures which is amazing.

"It started out with me helping members interact but now they're making connections themselves. 

"It's a peer-led group and we're seeing people growing in confidence. 

"I love seeing friendships forming and bonds being made."

Outwith the drop-in, Gaynor sends round useful information to New Scots families via email, and there's also a WhatsApp group. 

She takes the group on day trips and away days, and encourages participants to explore their new local area. 

Gaynor works closely with the Scottish Refugee Council and is setting up a local integration network to keep organisations up-to-date and identify any gaps in support. 

Due to the rapid expansion of the group, she's keen to hear from people who could lend a hand volunteering. 

Gaynor added: "We need people to get out and about in the community and support individuals and families. "

Zaid and Tetiana Almhana, and their daughter Maya, who is almost four years old, moved to Inverclyde in July 2022 and are one of the families being helped by Gaynor.

Greenock Telegraph:
Zaid is originally from Iraq but had been living in Ukraine for 10 years before relocating to Inverclyde. 

His last job in Ukraine was working as a doctor in charge of an emergency department. 

Zaid is now working at the EE call centre in Greenock and is trying to pass an English language qualification before he can sit the medical exams he needs to pass in this country and start working as a doctor again. 

Zaid told the Tele that he and Tetitana really enjoy going along to the group. 

He added: "We didn't know anyone when we moved here at first and we needed some support. 

"The group has been so helpful to us.

"We get to meet people from a lot of different nationalities and cultures and speak about a lot of different things. 

"It's been great to make a lot of new friends."

Greenock Telegraph:
New Scot Anna Koksharova says the group has helped her find out more about the beautiful scenery of the west of Scotland. 

She added: "It's been amazing exploring the local community. 

"I didn't know where to go out before that. 

"We've had really lovely day trips and I really appreciate the adventure. 

"It's been great to listen to all the different accents and speak a lot more English too."

*If you would like to get involved in volunteering with the New Scots group, email gaynor.lochhead@yourvoice.org.uk