Thanks to Hay Festival and Penny on Saturday 26th November we were able to bring a small group up from Swansea with Wayne, Maria, Phil and Kevin. They arrived just before midday and there was the chance to look around Hay before having a private feast in Red Indigo who opened specially for us. It advertises itself as offering superior Indian Cuisine and T remarked that they weren’t lying.
It was lovely to have the chance to sit down and relax with friends and have delicious food that we hadn’t cooked. Following this a group headed off to walk a dog, to see Buddhist Etchings or to listen to Owen Sheers and Louise Walsh.
Then we all (from our group: Margaret, Pat, Virginia, Lynne, Phil, Steve, Lawrence, Rachel, Sean and Ailsa) met up again to listen to Ben Rawlence, Yohannes Obsi and Dylan Moore discussing Ben’s book ‘City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp‘ about the worlds biggest refugee camp in Dadaab in Kenya, and to hear about Yohannes’ journey to the UK (Yohannes risked his life to cross the Libyan desert and the Mediterranean to reach the UK, spending time in the ‘jungle’ at Calais). As the talk went on, I worried that this might be all too close to home for some of our guests. However, when we chatted as they returned to their cars they seemed pleased that someone was telling their story – albeit that each person has a different journey and experience. For A who is destitute, the Home office have lost his paperwork again, for B a second refusal with comments about needing to be more involved in the community when already volunteering almost full time as well as caring for family, for C who rarely leaves his room which has become the only place he feels safe, for D who has been told he doesn’t speak good enough English for employment (it seemed fine to us), for E a farmer from Ethiopia an unexpected meeting with Ron a farmer from Clyro whom he’d met in Brilley – for them all a day to know that people care and want to help and to better understand their experiences and how life treats them now.
It was interesting to hear from Ben that many of the refugee camps that were intended as a temporary solution to war, pestilence and persecution actually become long-term cities but with grinding poverty and no opportunities to work. That it is mainly the poor who end up in a camp and anyone who is able to get enough money together to pay a people smuggler chooses this as it is their only chance of a free life. That the average stay in a refugee camp is 18 years (Gaza inflates the number somewhat). Yohannes commented that once you have started to travel you just want to get to the safest place. He had tried to claim asylum in both Italy and France without being able to have his claim registered, and so came to the UK as he’d been told there was a respect for human rights here.
So another interesting day with an opportunity to learn more from our friends in Swansea and to have fun.
From Wayne (Unity in Diversity Coordinator):
What a great weekend!!! Thank you so much once again.
We had a fantastic day on Saturday, from the scenic journey there, showing the folks the teepees by the river, the warm welcome and lovely meal, the guided tour of the town and beautiful market and finally the really informative talk in a beautiful setting. Trips like these allow us all to step out of the day to day stresses and take some time to get to know each other better. It was a lovely reward for our volunteers/community members and as ever they were very humbled by the warm welcome, the developing friendships and the opportunity to do something so nice, so normal and so distant from the anxiety endured due to their difficult circumstances.
From Maria (Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers’ Support Group Coordinator):
Thank you so much for the lovely day yesterday. I’m not too sure who to thank but please pass on our appreciation. We really enjoyed the meal and the talk and just being with a group of like minded lovely people. All our friends enjoyed a special day out and we were glad that T and D could join us.
A big thank you to…
- The Hay Festival for the complimentary tickets, which made it possible for our visitors to attend.
- Red Indigo Restaurant for opening especially for us and for creating a special menu. and the hay festival for the complimentary tickets which made it possible for our visitors to attend.
- Unity in Diversity
- Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers’ Support Group
- All our volunteers and supporters!
Thank you for all of your support!