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An Awesome Day in Aberhyddnant Crai

This day out was first suggested very soon after our group formed when Liz wrote to say she’d love to make her farm available for people to visit. Initially,she  generously suggested hosting a couple of families for the day and we’d struggled to identify the best way to do this. Then earlier this spring, Liz spoke with Margaret to suggest a full blown day out for all comers but at that stage none of us quite anticipated that we would end up  hosting over 80 people from all three south Wales cities!

Image may contain: sky, house, plant, tree, grass, outdoor and nature

As always, we started with a planning meeting when Melrose, Margaret and Ailsa met with Liz and Paul [her husband] to discuss their plans for the day and discuss how we could work together. As soon as we saw the farm we knew that we were looking at the base for a great day out and the local crafts people who had offered their skills were going to make this even better. Liz kept a holiday cottage vacant so the women and children could have a private base  and a separate room for the men to escape to as well as a games room.  She hired in portaloos and Paul scrubbed out a large barn. Crai village hall made cutlery,crockery, tables and chairs available and our store provided mugs, some basic provisions, the urn and flasks. Our various cooks and Liz’s contacts in Crai planned a feast.

Meanwhile Wayne and Maria collaborated upon a list of attendees and Stuart of Bluebird coaches made several journeys to check if we really meant to send him to a farm 2.5 miles from Crai and along a single track road. He spoke with Liz and agreed a drop off point a mile from the farm and a neighbour agreed he could park on her yard. From Newport, Gwent, Eva, the vulnerable peoples relocation Project Coordinator , wrote to ask if she could bring 19 people and 3 support workers – but by the Thursday this had grown to 10 adults and 14 children with 5 helpers! Then Stuart who had helped us fund raise at Hay wrote to ask if he could bring some Ethiopian boys that he had fostered to join us. Thankfully Liz was completely unfazed by all this and agreed.

So to Sunday – aptly named on this occasion. People and food started arriving from 8 onwards and the barn began to look really festive. The kitchen team of Liz, Jennie, Peter, Bethan, Melrose, Penny, Virginia, Brenda, Carola, Barbara, Reg, Ailsa, Mike and Sue and Christina arranged glasses and mugs, sorted out washing up facilities and made coffee and tea with plans for an early lunch to give longer for people to explore and play.   The bus arrived on time and Lawrence, Margaret, Reg and Sam set off to pick up anyone who wanted a lift but unfortunately met various cars coming the other way so many more walked than we had anticipated but no one seemed to mind! Thankfully, the transport from Newport and Cardiff had agreed to arrive a little later so had a smoother run in.

The day passed so quickly (with the kitchen team making frequent trips to top up the drinking water and the urn) with plenty of activities and places to relax. People wandered around admiring the horses, dogs and Jacob sheep (these sheep originate from Syria- one man recognised this and said how it made him feel at home), the scenery and luxuriating in the sunshine.

Tanwen set up tables for claywork and met a fellow potter seeking refuge in Swansea who may return to help her fire the masterpieces made by so many children of all ages. I was particularly drawn to the cross made with great care by one of the young men. Nicola showed visitors how to make felt  and we all admired their efforts. Marion wandered round telling and listening to stories with great responses . Susan and Allyson demonstrated crafty boxes and flannel puppies and people had a go too! Justin came with a guitar and showed a few people how to play as well as providing a musical accompaniment to lunch . Others enjoyed chats and a very competitive game of football (Cardiff v Swansea was never going to be a friendly!). Stuart gave a wonderful running commentary including querying Lawrence’s (the Ref) parents’ marital status. Sophia, Meryl , Steve and Paul walked, talked and led sheep. Sky, Gwen, Trixie and Meg  (the farm dogs) tried to round up everyone in a very friendly manner. Christopher brought a visitors book which many people wrote in – please see below! Evie and Cerys  representing the local Rainbow and Brownies joined in and also had fun.

After tea and cakes and an impromptu sing off between the Eritreans and Syrians we suddenly realised that time had run out and the bus needed to leave! A scramble down to the bus with cars and people ensued after everyone had thanked Liz, Paul, Bethan and Nicola for a superb day out. Some bags of toiletries generously donated by local Guide and Brownie troops and group members made it onto the bus and fresh eggs from the Matthews family went home with everyone.

People will have so many memories of the day – my favourite was seeing a Syrian man from Newport meet an old friend now living in Swansea – They  had been together with their families in a camp in Lebanon and they had lost touch. Their joy and their smiles at being re united will stay with me for a very long time. Another good memory is that a film crew sponsored the buses that brought the party from Newport and they were so excited to see such wonderful community involvement in  welcoming strangers into the countryside.

Friends re-united

Comments and thanks…

Maria, Phil and everyone from Swansea: Hi Paul, Liz, Nicola and Bethan (Sky, Gwen, Trixie & Meg)! Thank you on behalf of us all from Swansea for the most wonderful day on Sunday. Thank you for sharing your food, your home, your animals, your fields your welcome and your friendship. Everyone had a great time and we cannot pretend that the weather didn’t help.

We are also eternally grateful to all at HBTSR and the behind the scenes / and on the scenes work that they do. They are tireless in making a huge contribution to the quality of life of so many asylum seekers and refugees.
It is always lovely to extend our group of supporters and we hope you could see how much joy our friends receive from such days. It is a difficult task to put into words the benefits such a day brings. Many of our friends are from rural areas and now live in a city. They love to visit the countryside. All are living on very limited money and appreciate the wholesome homemade food provided. Perhaps most importantly, they feel welcomed and enjoy a day free from the worries and stresses of everyday life. Children see their parents relax and parents see their children enjoying all the things that children should.

We are aware of how much work and organisation goes into such an event. We, as volunteers, enjoy everything our friends do, but it also gives us a chance to sit and chat in a relaxed way, as usually we are the ones running around cooking and washing up. It is often on these days that people we have known for some time open up to us. Some people join our trips regularly and some we met for the first time. It was a great way of meeting newcomers, allowing us to give them more information about support available in Swansea. Most of the ‘regulars’ are people who are waiting for yet another court hearing and/or have been refused their visa several times. This is an extremely stressful time for them and it does their spirits good to see familiar faces.

Thank you also to all the local people and friends of Liz and family,who were so welcoming ,and hopefully learned more about our organisations,and enjoyed the company of our friends from many lands. It was a pleasure to meet you all.

Thank you all so very very much.

Wayne (Unity in Diversity): Many thanks to Liz and Paul for hosting a fantastic day of activities on their beautiful farm in Aberhyddnant. Thanks also to the ‘Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees’ group and their supporters for another wonderful respite trip. A our resident journalist will present a movie he’s made of the day at our drop-in tomorrow night at Unity in Diversity. 

Stuart: What a fantastic day! I arrived from Cardiff with 3 Oromo boys and 2 Kurdish boys. They have had a brilliant time, eating, singing, playing football and enjoying the countryside. One of the boys arrived from Kurdistan Iraq and I am his foster carer. The smile on his face has been constant and he has met other people who can speak Sorani. Many thanks to everyone who has arranged this wonderful day. Diolch yn fawr.

Margaret: Well done for today! It all seemed to go very well from where I was – though outside the main arena on ‘O’ watch! Thank you and Paul for being such welcoming hosts. It was lovely to see so many happy, smiling faces; enjoying a day away from the stresses of lives as people seeking refuge.

Keira: It was a wonderful event. I’m so glad we came, we had such a lovely time.

Penny: Yesterday was yet another enjoyable and successful day [so well done to all involved] in a lovely location with lots to keep our visitors occupied and happy.

Melrose: Another excellent day and thanks to Liz for organising it.

Ailsa: Hi Liz, just to say thanks so much to you and your marvellous family for a wonderful day out for so many people. Such amazing generosity and so much fun!

Sean: Many thanks Liz and Paul for a brilliant day’s outing for us all. I estimated there were 95 asylum seekers in total… 56 on the bus from Swansea, 25 Syrians from Newport and Stewart brought 6 lads up from Cardiff. Quite brilliantly organised.

Brenda: Everyone seemed to be enjoying the sun, surroundings and activities.

Carola: Thank you for your generous hospitality. It was lovely to see everyone so relaxed and enjoying the lovely surroundings in glorious sunshine.

Liz: A very big thank you to HBTSR for the awesome support today, we could not have done it without you!