‘This was not a just a gesture but a practical demonstration of solidarity and love for those in need.’
Over 30 Cradoc School pupils came to school on Sunday 29th January to help Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees (HBTSR) to welcome 55 people seeking asylum or refuge in Swansea to Cradoc School for an action-packed day. Led by their Head and Deputy Head teachers, Judith Morris and Beth Roberts, the pupils, parents, grandparents and friends collaborated with HBTSR to provide breakfast, lunch and teas as well as a host of activities. Despite rain, a mixture of children of over 12 nationalities and all ages played football, saw lambs, built shelters and cooked dampers with Brecknock Play Network outside whilst those more concerned by the weather stayed in for face painting, welsh cake cooking, jewellery making, paper basket weaving, clay modelling, music, woodcarving and painting. Meanwhile, the mothers sorted through and selected from masses of clothing donated by Cradoc school parents and Tesco (a worker visited the school, heard about the event and donated surplus clothing).
Indoor activities – paper straw weaving, clay modelling, jewellery making, Welsh cake making, discussion about geography, Eugene and his portrait group, face painting, music from members of the school band, looking at clothing, chatting and welcome photo with head, deputy head and minister for education.
Outdoor activities (despite the rain!) – fire and shelter building with Brecknock Play Network, football all day, woodcarving (I still can’t work out how a piece of wood became a bird but many birds went home with visitors all the same) and lambs.
Food – Katy making so many flasks of coffee and some of the many wonderful donations.
When Williams coaches arrived to take people home, welcome bags of food and toiletries given by a mixture of pupils, villagers, supporters, Co-op, Morrisons and Aldi were handed over amidst hugs, tears of joy and thanks.
Feedback from the visitors was of heartfelt gratitude – ‘The trip was so nice. I thank the people so much. My daughter has wonderful face painting and the donations of clothes and food is so helpful to us. It saves us money that we can use on other things. If any of these wonderful people ever come to Swansea I would like to repay their amazing hospitality’ said M from Sudan.
Maria Nicholas, who volunteers at one of the Drop in centres in Swansea, explained that it was difficult to articulate what this generosity and friendship means to people who are isolated, anxious and sad , trying to come to terms with the traumas they have fled whilst desperately attempting to rebuild lives and families here. ‘It was a fantastic day that will live in the hearts of our friends (and indeed us) for a very long time’.
We feel sure that it will be a day in school that Cradoc school pupils won’t forget either.
Cradoc School started the ball rolling in November by inviting Ailsa to talk about people seeking refuge and away days after supporters Katy and Beth decided that a day at the school might be feasible. They inspired the pupils to pester their parents to help, donate goodies, food and skills and to ask neighbours and friends to help too. Head teacher Judith was delighted for this to happen as an extension of the work they were doing on inclusion and human rights.
Pupils wrote to Williams coach company who were kind enough to match the price offered by Bluebird and discussions were had with the Co-op and Tesco to produce food and clothing. Many local craftspeople gave their time to help ensure this was such a successful day.
From Cradoc School: Thanks to all involved from Cradoc School, those whom Cradoc school encouraged to help, all our wonderful supporters and our amazing and inspiring visitors who all together made this day so memorable.
From Wayne (UID): Well that was another great success 🙂
N from Pakistan: Its so lovely to see the countryside I’ve never seen Wales like this. The people are so nice and welcoming. I hope it’s sunny next time.
D from Nigeria: The trip is so helpful for me mentally, coming here and meeting friendly people really helps me feel positive when usually I feel lonely and down.
M from Sudan: The trip is so nice, I thank the people so much, my daughter has wonderful face painting. The donations of clothes is so helpful for us, it saves us money that we can use on other things. If any of these wonderful people ever come to Swansea I would like to return their amazing hospitality.
S from Pakistan: I had a really good day playing football. I’m wet, muddy and very happy. It is so nice to see a different place. It was very good for our children, they did cooking and face painting and music. For one day we had a holiday and we didn’t sit at home worrying.
N from Algeria: I’m so happy to see a different and beautiful place. My kids have done so many things, they enjoyed making pottery and face painting, the food was so delicious and healthy. We have clothes and food to take home, this helps so much because it saves us much money. Life can be difficult away from our home country but we felt like we were with family the moment we arrived.
A from Sudan: Many thanks to HBTSR/UID and the people of Cradoc for hosting us and generous support. I and my family had a lovely day and fun as well, and the children resisted to leave the village!
The Swansea Crew: Hello all you folks at Hay Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees, I have copied the letter I have sent to Cradoc School thanking them for the fantastic day. I just want to add our thanks to you all, for any involvement you had and to say how wonderful it was to see so many of you there today. I did not have the chance to speak with you all, but it is so reassuring to see so many supporters,who are now becoming familiar faces. It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with Unity in Diversity and yourselves. We look forward to seeing you soon…The Swansea Crew!
Maria, Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers Support Group (SBASSG): Hello, my name is Maria and I am a volunteer with Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers Support Group (SBASSG). I had the privilege today, of joining our friends to enjoy a wonderful day hosted by Cradoc Primary School. It was a fantastic day that will remain in the hearts of our friends (and indeed us) for a very long time.
It is difficult to articulate what your generosity and friendship means to these people. We see them, and many others, in the same position on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. We are aware of the isolation, chronic anxiety and sadness they experience. Yet, whilst trying to provide for their basic needs, we are often unable to give them the time and the ‘treats’ that you provided today.
On the journey home, so many say they feel inadequate in expressing their appreciation and the word ‘thank you’ does not convey how much the day meant to them.
I am myself, overwhelmed by the number of people who devoted so much time planning and organising this day. I am aware,that there were probably some people who were not able to attend today, who also had some part in this. We know that the amount of delicious wholesome food provided today, does not appear on the tables without a lot of shopping, preparation and cooking. We know that the dishes and pans have to be washed up, and that the kitchen and school has to be returned to a work place by tomorrow morning. I am hesitant to mention any names for fear of missing someone out. I think I would probably be safe thanking Beth and every other person who contributed to the success of today. You made a lot of troubled people, miles away from their homes, families and friends welcome. They loved the food, appreciated the friendship and warmth extended to them and the amazing range of activities provided that gave them all a chance to forget their troubles for a few hours. The alternative on a rainy Sunday afternoon is bleak.
SBASSG works closely with another Swansea group led by the wonderful Wayne Yare who also joined the day with some of the volunteers . The name of this group is Unity in Diversity – a phrase which could describe today aptly.
Thank you, thank you, thank you so much from all of us, and we hope to meet you all again sometime.
Saba: Thank you very much for your hospitality and for your warm welcome- it was fabulous day. Everyone had a great fun, wonderful activities for children’s keep them busy and happy.
We are really appreciate your kindness and love ❤️ Hope to see you all soon.
Margaret: I just want to congratulate you on organising such a marvellous day! A very big ‘Thank you’ to you, to all the staff and to the school families and helpers. Please pass my thanks on to all concerned. It was truly wonderful. The activities, the warm welcome and the many activities all worked to give our refugee friends a day that they will long remember. For one family in particular, new to Swansea, this was a real ‘life-line’, enabling them to meet with others and forge new friendships. So – such a valuable day.
Sue: What a great day again and even poignant in the light of what is happening in America. I have had a number of new folk to the group say what energy and love there is within the group.
Brenda: I was so impressed with the wonderful organisation, numbers of helpers and obviously caring and inclusive ethos of the school. It made me proud of Wales and our community. So many commented upon it being not only a gesture but a practical demonstration of solidarity for thoses in need and against the nastiness coming out of the White House.
Kirsty: It was great to be able to join you for a little while this afternoon.
Owen: In the wake of Trump’s short-sighted and morally bankrupt ban on certain refugees entering the US, the away day at Cradoc was a wonderful and much needed reminder of the possibilities of human nature at the other end of the caring spectrum. To walk in and see so many people of all ages, backgrounds, religions and languages sharing time, stories and activities together was enriching and life-affirming. I was immensely impressed by Cradoc school and Hay, Brecon & Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees for all they’d done to make this happen, and proud to see the room piled high with donations. As a Welshman I was proud, too, to speak with so many refugees who said they had experienced nothing but generosity and kindness since arriving in Wales. This, it felt, was a truer impression of what it means to be Welsh than the recent Brexit vote and the unnecessarily hard Brexit our MP is supporting – to care and empathise with others and to cross boundaries through collaboration, sport and the arts!’