Charity director tours Hebridean islands

Alistair Dutton met Barra fishermen, left to right, Colin MacNeil, Angus Campbell, Angus John MacNeil, Hector MacLean and Donnie McLean, and, front, teenage helpers Andrew MacNeil, 13, James MacNeil and Cailean MacNeil, 14.

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Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) director Alistair Dutton took the charity’s WEE BOX appeal on a tour of the stunning islands of the Outer Hebrides to meet local fishing communities as this year’s appeal tells the story of its work with poor families who depend on fishing to survive in Cambodia.

Alistair spent six days in the Western Isles visiting Barra, Vatersay, North and South Uist, Benbecula and Eriskay, speaking to fishermen as they landed their catch, fish processing firms and wholesalers who get their catch to market about the WEE BOX appeal and learning about similarities between the issues fishing communities face in Scotland and Cambodia.

He also met children in local schools, supporters in their parishes, clergy and many other local people to share stories of the people SCIAF helps in Cambodia, and described how they’ve struggled to feed their families because of poverty and overfishing.

Alistair said: ‘It great to meet so many people on these stunning islands. I particularly remember their warmth and the way they welcomed us into each of their communities.

‘Whoever we were visiting, whether it was a school, a parish, fishermen on their boats or in the fish processors, they just threw their doors open. They were really pleased to show us what they were doing and to see the connections with people overseas.

‘I wanted to meet the islanders to let them know that they are all a very important part of SCIAF and I really enjoyed sharing with them the stories of our work with families who are dependent on fishing in Cambodia.

‘I also learned a lot from them and about the challenges they face trying to make a living from fishing on the Scottish islands.

‘I was struck by many similarities such as how they manage their fish stocks, how they preserve their catch and make sure they get a decent price at market, and how people working together is often the best way to overcome the issues they face.’

Alistair shared the story of the Lang family in Cambodia who feature on this year’s WEE BOX during a visit to Barratlantic fish, shellfish and processing firm and hauliers on Barra. He attended a Deanery meeting of local priests, and visited Castlebay Community School.

While on the Uists, Alistair met fishermen and processors from Kallin Shellfish and was invited onto the White Heather fishing boat to see how the crew land their precious catch of crab and lobster.

Alistair visited Benbecula and spoke to schoolchildren at Sgoil Bhaile a Mhanaich, a Gaelic-medium school, about the WEE BOX appeal.

He said: ‘I’d like to say a massive thanks to everyone who’s filled their SCIAF WEE BOX this Lent.’

SCIAF works with people in some of the poorest countries in the world, providing emergency aid and practical long term support to those affected by hunger, poverty, war and disasters. In Scotland it brings together to lobby governments and big business with campaigns to address the causes of global poverty and injustice.