The sun shone brilliantly and spirits were high. We’ve enjoyed some wonderful days out recently but the fine weather was a great bonus!
Melrose and Alison built a great team around them to provide a day of exciting activities and fantastic food. For me the Away Day started several weeks ago with a short meeting of interested people at Llangorse Community Centre, when activities and food were discussed. Emails and further chats by Melrose secured the bus, the hall, Fiona and Tanwen to do clay modelling, Sue and Rae to make dream pillow cases, Ann to make jewellery, Carole a spinner, some knitting, Jane and Greg with the playpen, Lawrence and Robert to sort out games, The Taiko drummers, dance with Miranda and Ricki and Colin and Wally to organise walks.
Then to Friday loading up the car with clothing, toys and provisions from our store at Ty Mawr and a trip to the Foodbank who supplied 100Kg of food for our visitors. Melrose had several large shopping lists to ensure bread, milk, biscuits, fruit and other essentials were available. So many cooks in Llangorse (and beyond) making cakes, stews, rice,biscuits, tagine, hummus and salads and loads of boiled eggs. Donations of food and toiletries were arriving all week and much was also promised (and delivered on Sunday).
Llyn Safaddan cubs made a lovely welcome banner and planned donations and activities. Llangorse Church in Wales School made some beautiful and moving welcome cards to tell people that they were very welcome and that Wales was a good and safe place. My favourite told them that it could be cold and to wrap up warmly in winter and to come and visit us.
Saturday saw Melrose, Alison, Roger, Maureen and Ailsa preparing the hall, sorting donations and getting cloth bags (thanks Margaret and Pat) ready with toiletries and non perishable food. Then a trip to Aldi to receive over £100 of end of date perishable food for which we were very grateful. Virginia and Hilary did a Morrisons collection which added another £100 worth of food that was at sell by date or a discontinued line, also much appreciated.
Sunday morning started with packing more bags, boiling kettles, warming food, cutting bread, setting up breakfast and lunch with donations of food arriving in a constant stream. Steve, Lawrence and Robert set up the shelter and games outside and the clothing moved out to the shelter. More and more people arrived to help with preparations. The message that the bus had left a little late but packed and with two cars with additional people coming increased the sense of excitement and anticipation. Lawrence put himself on car park duty so we’d have some space to play and for the coach to park. To people who were worried they’d not brought enough he said ‘you’ve brought the most important things -a welcome and a smile’ and repeated it to our visitors whose seemingly boundless enthusiasm brightens even the dullest day.
At 11.30 the bus and cars arrived (with over 60 people ready for fun) and welcomes were shared. Coffee, tea, juice, squash, water and biscuits, bread and jam vanished quickly and most people went for a walk to the lake to see the Crannog and Common with Colin, Wally, Steve, Robert and Lawrence. Phil and Kevin were delayed by having their car boots filled with donations to take back to the Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers Support group (SBASSG). One young boy wanted to see the whales – we could only find sheep and horses! A lady remarked that she’d heard the Brecon Beacons were beautiful but wasn’t quite prepared for how beautiful.
Food was laid out and then we waited for the walkers to return which they did soon after 1pm with tales of what they’d seen. Two Syrian teenagers wanted to play rugby and Lawrence wasn’t sure that the tarmac was a good place to play and anyway we didn’t have a rugby ball. They had two that they had brought with them and so we practiced passes. ‘We are in Wales and we want to be Welsh’, one lad said.
The football rapidly took over and throughout the day various small groups played on the tarmac with makeshift goals and great enthusiasm. A young cub hurt her leg tackling someone much bigger than her. She was rapidly first aided by a 2 cub leaders, a physio, a retired doctor and a wonderful high school pupil who stayed with her for ages until she felt well enough to go drumming.
Clay modelling was very popular with the cubs and their new friends and several additional tables were provided out in the sunshine so all could participate. Then it was onto the dream pillow cases to help people think ‘good thoughts and do good things’. The play area was much used and Lego models made. O and his new friend B enjoyed rolling a Lego car down the slide, over and over again.
The coach driver, our new friend Alun, kindly took the walkers (and people who just wanted to see more things) most of the way to Gilfach Farm so they could have time to see things before returning for tea. Colin, Roger and Wally led the way. People marvelled over the lamb born that day, the alpacas, hens, goats, horses and pig and some saw the climbing wall and ice creams! Little O was very pleased to see the lamb as he wanted to know where they were as soon as he arrived in Llangorse. He was also delighted to see his friend Margaret and worried about Pat.
Whilst the walkers were away, we learnt some circle dances and were taught Salsa by Raz and several young girls showed us their dances which we weren’t flexible enough to copy.
Meanwhile outside the Taiko Drummers were setting up and Steve set up chairs so tired limbs could rest. After a display of magnificent theatrical drumming we were able to participate.
Then it was tea and so many different cakes, including a magnificent gluten free chocolate marshmallow cake from ‘Love at First Bake’. A shared some but also had some to take home! He sent thanks to Love at First bake for their generosity. Others sent thanks to all the generous cooks!
And then it was past time to leave, we lingered and loitered and Alun was very indulgent as we said goodbyes and counted to check we’d left no one and all the pushchairs were loaded along with bags of clothes and take away cartons of food. Brenda gave all the ladies some beautiful Welsh Narcissi and Lynne had donated some lovely scented hand gels which we also gave to each lady or girl.
Then as we tidied we chatted over the wonderful day. C and O who came with Sarah were so helpful throughout the day but much appreciated by all of us as they sorted clothing into bags. Another great day to remember and a new artwork to help us!
THANK YOU TO…
- All our wonderful Group and Friends who helped us- I’m not going to try to list all as there was well in excess of 60 people there most of the day but – thanks so much for your efforts without which there would not have been a day out.
- Melrose and Alison for their coordination.
- The Taiko Drummers and Ricky and Carole and Fiona and Tanwen
- Llyn Safaddan Cubs and their leaders Maureen and Steve
- Llangorse Activity Centre
- Llangorse Church in Wales School and The Beacons and Lake Benefice
- Aldi and Morrisons
- Brecon Foodbank
- Love at First Bake
- Everyone who provided food, baking, toiletries, goods and donations of money (we raised over £90!)
- Bluebird Coaches for providing such a comfortable coach and our kindly driver Alun.
Dear Melrose, and the vast number of people who supported Sunday’s trip in any way,
Thank you for another amazing respite day last Sunday at Llangors Community Centre. Thank you for the vast array of delicious food, the meticulous organisation and the warm welcome that we received. Also for arranging the glorious weather, which is always ‘the icing on the cake’. Indeed, a respite day it was.
As volunteers from Swansea, we always appreciate being able to have more time to talk with our friends, as we are usually too busy teaching, cooking, serving tea etc to spend as much time as we would like chatting. It is through this time, in relaxing surroundings that we learn more about individuals and their families. We are always touched by their resilience and courage but also learn that many are depressed and desperate. They are overwhelmed by the welcome and friendliness of all of you at HBTSR, they enjoy a ‘normal’ day in the beautiful countryside and are refreshed by being somewhere safe but different.
The work and the time that goes into a day like this is extraordinary and much appreciated. All the people who visit with a smile, chat, sort clothes, serve tea and coffee and wash up, arrange activities, shop, cook, serve, dry a small boy’s wet shoes…..and much more, all contribute to the wonderful occasion.
Many of the families that visited on Sunday live outside of the city centre and cannot afford the bus fare to visit the drop ins. I was able to tell them that on the first Friday of every month, a family bus ticket is fully reimbursed if they attend. One lady from Pakistan with four children under 8 years, told me that she had no idea there were activities in the community. She said that her depression was ‘very low’ today because she was having such a nice day. Many families had not been outside of Swansea until this Away Day. It was so lovely to see the young single men relaxing and laughing. A young Albanian woman told me she was lonely and had no friends and stayed indoors most of the time. She had been brave enough to come alone – I could also tell her about the drop ins – she looked far happier as we were leaving. D from Nigeria rarely goes out but looks forward to these days, when he feels comfortable and safe and is distracted from his worries for a day. One little girl asked me what the place was called, she said, “my mummy told me we were going on a holiday”.
Again, so many say how the day helps them to forget their worries, see their children occupied and happy and feel ‘normal’. So many say they feel lucky to have had the experience and are already looking forward to the next one! So many say what kind lovely people you all are and how they don’t know how to thank you adequately. There is no doubt that the bags of food and toiletries, along with the clothes and toys available to choose, ensure that the following week is easier. The goods sent back in the cars are distributed to those who have not been able to attend the trip.
Last but not least, we were all very touched by the beautiful cards the children at Llangors school had made. The sentiments in them made us both laugh and cry. Many thanks to whoever organised this.
I could go on, but I won’t… I hope I have been able to thank you (all but inadequately) on behalf of us all. Words just don’t do it! You are all amazing – thank you.
Maria (on behalf of Swansea Bay Asylum Seeker Group and Unity in Diersity)
S from Swansea: Thanks for your hospitality Hay, Brecon and Talgarth group. You are fantastic. Great sunny day. Fun, activities, dance, drumming, some henna tattoos and many more things. It was very enthusiastic day.
Carole: thank you to everyone – hosts and visitors – for a lovely day xx
M from Llangorse: The food was irresistible, and the cakes… when I got home I sank into a heap and didn’t eat again till breakfast the next day. Too irresistible!
M from Llanfihangel: another absolutely wonderful day! Big thanks to you, Melrose and the team.
S from ‘the hills’ (Abridged): C and O really enjoyed the day. O had said yesterday to me and then later at home that she felt really sad when it was time for our friends from Swansea to leave… they both also had some good ideas about other activities we might do and are keen to come again!
O was thrilled to get the chance to learn some salsa steps (and have a henna transfer on her hand) – and it was also really lovely to see the young man from Swansea keen to teach her. I thought it was great to see both the traditional folk dancing going on in one space and the bespoke dance class going on in another. I thought I had lost her at one point and then realised she had gone with the group to wave goodbye to the bus – I was very happy with how they both got involved throughout the day. It was another lovely day, truly, and we were all glad to have been there.
N (from O): I really want to thank you for everything that you are doing for us and every time I pray I wish to God to give you all the happiness as you make us happy every time. This is the little thing – I wish I could do more. Lots of love.