Here is the wonderful newsletter from Hiraeth Hope – West Wale, a community group that is offering refugees and asylum seekers in Swansea, Cardiff and abroad a range of services, including family weekend retreats, crafts training, work experience breaks and short weekend respite care breaks, amongst many others!
We collected 6 families from Swansea Friday late afternoon in a large minibus and a Bongo (thanks Courtney Probert). There was a lot of excitement and quite a long journey ahead. The families came from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria. They are all asylum seekers, on appeal, living with the dread of final refusal for remain to stay in the United Kingdom. Over the weekend I began to understand the enormous daily trauma this has on their lives.
The initial response from everyone arriving was amazing, they loved the old place. I had prepared a couple of dishes for the group to get the eating started, but with such distinguished cooks amongst the group, the cooking was done from that point onwards by themselves …. and what food!
Friday night we had a lovely night walk around the Cathedral grounds and then came back and settled down with a mixture of teas,. The children I didn’t think would go to sleep ….. but they did.
We were fortunate that our retreat was on the St David’s Day Celebration, when the whole city come out to support the various activities. I am sure for many on our retreat the welcome they got was so personal wherever they went, it felt like St David’s had turned out for them!
Next year we will organise for families to make a dragon in Swansea to bring to St David’s with them!
We’d also been invited to attend the famous Cawl Competition at the Town Hall, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed and we’re greeted by one of the most moving off the cuff speeches I’ve ever heard by Cannon Dorian of St David’s Cathedral – thank you. They met all kinds of people from the town and we’re not only invited to the nights Twmpath, but two local people paid for the adults to atttend and the organisers let the children go in free! Pictures from that will be posted soon.
I don’t quite know how we fitted everything into the weekend, but we did, next came local artist Linda Norris and her helpers, she’d hired a workshop space at Oriel y Parc and enabled each participant to make a beautiful bookmark as a momento – thank you Linda!
We had intended having some quiet time, but the families insisted on going to the beach at 4.30pm!
Whilst everyone was waiting for the Twmpath to start at the town hall, Luke Conlon helped all the children make Bara Brith! Which they all loved doing!
Sunday was every bit as full, in the morning Catrionna Fothergill led the most entertaining and chaotic natural voice session she’s ever done! It ranged from a lovely African song, to doing the Hokey Cokey to ssome of the adults singing their national anthems, which for the Iraqi mother, was very emotional and great reminder to us all of what has been lost in their journey here to Wales! Very moving … thanks Cat.
Canon Dorian of the Catherdral had invited families down to the sung Eucharist, which is quite an experience, and so 4 parents went down and were welcome warmly! The congregation we’re invited to pray for their safe keeping and that had quite an impact on all who attended.
And I have no doubt all our prayers, of whatever kind, will go with our friends in their journey forward!
Whilst most of the parents we’re in the service, Paul Casson of the PCNPA DiscoveryTeam led the most exciting exploration of the beach leading up to the Blue Lagoon. The group had an extraordinary time as they looked for fossils, learnt about slate and how to skip stones on the water. They also witnessed people jumping into the lagoon, for which it is now famous!
Life is precious and the conversations we all had together reflected that and the desire to both live and create a new home. We we’re all moved many times over the weekend and so we’re the people of St Davids.
As we we’re leaving the County Councillor for St Davids, David Lloyd approached who we’d spoken to on Friday. He too was moved at the plight our friends we’re in. He is a barrister and has offered to help represent those that need help in their appeal process.
It was difficult getting everyone onto the bus home, but what a difference in spirit! As we we’re driving along it felt a little like those Bollywood movies, with everyonne singing and I was left in no doubt that there is a need for many more events like this in the lives of those people who find themselves on asylum in the UK.
Many thanks to all those that helped make the weekend possible, the money that was raised in our October event, Hannah Chapamn in Swansea for arranging at her end, Alan York for such atentiveness throughout the weekend, Anna Erben for being present, helping and listening, Gill for preparing the house for everyone and to all those people who took time to talk our families in St Davids.
Three of the families, have offered to cook at our next fund raiser, calling themselves (I think) The THree Bolly Ladies!
Please share this newsletter with those that might be interested in what we do at Hiraeth Hope for more information visit www.hiraethhope.org.uk