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Sporting Success at Talgarth Sports Festival

It’s been a busy month with four different respite days and a weekend of fund and awareness raising but once again our magnificent supporters rose to the occasion and turned out in their droves to welcome visitors from Swansea, Cardiff and Herefordshire to the Talgarth Sports Festival. Thirty five people seeking asylum/refuge in Swansea came with Wayne, Jonathan, Phil and Bethan – twenty having dropped out due to fears about the weather, failing to get up, unforeseen appointments or illness. Three men with refugee status arrived by car having missed the bus due to work finishing late. Two people arrived with Stuart from Cardiff and a young lady came from Herefordshire with her foster carers – the others expected from Hereford and Cardiff had failed to get up! It was their loss as they missed out on a fantastic day of sports, walks, food, fun and the spectacle of the re-match between Talgarth Town FC and Unity in Diversity FC played out with great sportsmanship and passion.

Virginia with welcome sign; people arriving.

Our organiser on this occasion was Virginia and again she had built a great team around her to ensure welcome drinks and biscuits were available, lunch was plentiful and delicious and that there was cake for tea (and throughout the day!). In addition, we had asked for people to come and  to bring fruit  and toiletries. In true generous fashion, people had heard our pleas and we had enough fruit for everyone to eat their fill and to send a very large box back to Swansea for sharing at the Drop in Centre, enough toiletries to give everyone who came a bag with toothpaste, a toothbrush, shower gel, shampoo, tissues and deodorant  (and sanitary pads for the women) as well as enough to send back to Swansea to share out at the drop ins, some to share with Swansea Humanitarian Aid Response Project  and for the next respite day in Brecon!  Thanks so much to everyone who responded so kindly.

Boxes and bags of toiletries and the tables set for start of day.

Supporters started to arrive soon after 9am when Dan kindly rose early and opened up Gwernyfed Rugby club for us. I know that I won’t remember everyone who came by name but there were a number of new faces who I hope enjoyed themselves so much that they will come again and and plenty of familiar stalwarts who all seem to know what needs doing and magically everything gets done. Clothes and groceries were laid out upstairs by kind people who knew that it is hard to cope with having handouts and that a bit of thoughtful presentation makes a big difference -showing respect and preserving dignity. The kitchen seemed constantly full with ever changing shifts of people helping with food preparation, heating up dishes, cutting fruit and cake and most importantly washing and drying up. The bar area was transformed into a dining room and tables started to groan with food and drinks. Rob Stephens, the Gwernyfed RFC Chairman, came to help welcome people and was thanked for his help in ensuring that we have a regular meeting place as well as a superb venue to join in the sports.

Preparations and waiting

Ludo, Keira, Sereen and Erica from True Vision Wales who are making a documentary about the welcome refugees receive in this country arrived, interviewed various people and spent the day with us documenting all the wonderful events.  Sadly, probably a few seconds will be all that will make it to the final film as they are working on this for many months but I know that they saw much to impress them about how a small town and rural area can do so much to help people feel welcome and wanted.

Wayne briefing everyone about the event.

People who in their everyday life don’t often feel valued, believed or liked. People who have suffered from persecution, torture, danger and having escaped find themselves having to subsist upon £5.30 a day and with the constant threat hanging over them of being sent back to ‘where they came from’. People who may have had their story accepted and given refugee status for varying amounts of time but who now struggle to find somewhere to live, work and try to rebuild their lives in a country where they may not speak the language well, where the culture is very different and the climate variable. The Syrians who have escaped war and worse but arrive with nothing, barely speaking English and trying to care for traumatised children whilst also trying to fit into a society that is so different from the one that they have fled. The successful few who have indefinite leave to remain but who now try to live with the terrible trauma that forced them from home, that accompanied them through the dangerous journey, that they relived many times when they sought asylum and now face trying to rebuild a future where their previous expertise is  discounted or irrelevant – the journalist who now makes car parts, the  lawyer who works for Amazon, the doctor who has to pass new exams before he can be retrained and meanwhile volunteers with the Red Cross. And yet for the day they will all put this aside and participate with enthusiasm and respond to the warmth of their welcome from local people who have found time in their lives to offer validation and love.

The coach arrives and after drinks, biscuits, cakes and fruit, the people from all over the world were welcomed by Lawrence on behalf of the rugby club and HBTSR and then a briefing about all the available activities took place. People headed off for a walk, to see bell-ringing, to do judo, dance, fencing, golf, rugby, boxing, table tennis, football and volley ball having been reassured that food would be available for several hours and certainly well before the big game!

I gather that some people played football all day – Lawrence reffed a match of people from Swansea, and Cardiff with some of the Talgarth under 11 teams playing  and volley ball seemed popular. Over lunch people chatted about what they had done and everyone seemed to have had a great time. The walkers disappeared with Rob and Sean for several hours returning with great appetites apart from one young man who had severe tummy-ache which improved rapidly when a Kurdish speaker was found and some mint tea and paracetamol were given.  His recovery was so good that he was able to play in the big match! I hope mint tea doesn’t count as a performance enhancer as he played well! Maybe match day nerves, travel sickness, homesickness, stitch or hunger?

What to say about Lunch except that there was an enormous amount of delicious food including some Ethiopian specialities lovingly made by friends of Rachel who came  from Newport for the day and joined in. Various pasta bakes, fish stew, chicken stew, vegetable chilli, curry, hard boiled eggs, Hummus, salads, rice, breads and fruit (“You didn’t forget the spice. It was so good to taste such lovely food”).

So to the big match – last year  the fixture was rescued by Talgarth taking on a Unity in Diversity (UID) player when he was so desperate to play that he refused to leave the pitch. This was Mo who was so tragically murdered at Christmas. Chris Voyles, the Talgarth Town manager, suggested that a minutes silence pre-match would be appropriate and this was observed meticulously and ended with rousing cheers and claps.

Teams lined up for the one minute silence in remembrance of Mo.

The UID coaches on this occasion were Benjy (studying in Swansea), Bethan and Phil who let everyone who wanted to play do so and Talgarth FC also offered to have some additional subs. The match was expertly refereed by a man who looked barely old enough to have left school (I’m getting very old!) and played with great spirit and enthusiasm. My football correspondent told me that it was an exciting game with a penalty for UID taken in Premier league fashion, goals scored from 30 yards out, hitting the bar and posts and the final score of 11-5 demonstrating the improvement in the performance by UID and that Talgarth were fronting up and respecting their opposition.  He was also impressed by the inclusion of two profoundly deaf people in the team.  I was promised by Cyrille that if he scored he would  dedicate the goal to me – he was goal keeper so there was little danger of that happening! The game last year may have been a good warm up for Talgarth’s season as they were promoted and it is to be hoped that the season ahead is as successful. Certainly the crowd watching on Saturday was one of the biggest either team had played in front of this year and they were treated to a feast of football . We are very grateful to Talgarth Town FC for their warm welcome and for the manner with which they played such an exciting game.


After the match: with the Oromian and Welsh flags. Man of the match presentation.

And so to tea with a wonderful array of cakes and time for a song from a talented Middle Eastern man that sounded full of longing but was clapped along to by all. We couldn’t persuade anyone else to try – Sean saying he’d been cautioned many times for attempting to mangle Irish songs. We’ll have to practice.

Listening to the singing and time for ‘selfies’ in the bar.

Then, as we all started to relax, it was time to go. Stuart efficiently ensured everyone was on board complete with bags of clothes, shoes, food and toiletries and we waved them off. Our new friends from Cardiff, Newport and Herefordshire left promising to return and saying they wished they had known about us sooner.


Thanks to…

Virginia for coordinating the day.

Everyone who came, but especially to…

  • Jan Hughes and her team  who did Welcome Drinks.
  • Rachel Giaccone and her team who did lunch.
  • Heulwen Davies and her team who made cakes (and to those such as Gaynor and Dyfanwen who sent them) and worked stalwartly especially at the washing up.
  • Melrose, Barbara, Reg, 2 Jeans, Jan, 2 Janets, 2 Janes, Sylvia, Steve, Robert, Lawrence, Sean, Mike, Jon, Ceri, Penny, Trevor, Pauline, Dante, Fiona, Margaret, Pat and Maggie and many others who all worked so hard to ensure that the day went well. Whatever you did was important and even if not recognised in this write up was much appreciated. Even just arriving with a smile and spending an hour was valuable. I don’t acknowledge enough that I recognise that many people participate at great personal cost whilst coping with all the trials and tribulations of everyday life including illness, bereavement, families and finances. Thank you.
  • The day’s activities were all arranged and delivered by Jacqui Wilding and Talgarth Regeneration Group. Grateful thanks for letting us join in.
  • The Rugby Club is hugely appreciated and Dan deserves a mention for his support and help.
  • The Coop, Morrisons and John and Claire at Talgarth Stores for the kindly donated goods.
  • Talgarth Mill for the lovely bread donation.
  • Gurkha Corner Restaurant, Brecon for the donation of the delicious vegetable curry and rice.
  • Talgarth Town FC for their warm welcome and the wonderful opportunity to play and watch such a great game.
  • Thanks as always to Bluebird coaches who provide such comfortable coaches and kind drivers.
  • Thanks to Ailsa for organising take home bags and all the very many people who so generously donated to these.
  • thanks also for the financial donations which came to £42.60 on the day and an additional sum kindly donated by a church group of £92!

These lovely trainers have a new home and were received with grateful thanks!



Hi all,

Once again, a huge thanks to everyone involved in yesterday’s fantastic sports day. A special mention to Virginia for organising the event. Even the weather was kind!

We volunteers at the Swansea end really appreciate the significant organisation behind the scenes which make such days truly memorable. The range of activities is widening month by month. From Judo (thanks, Dante!) to bell ringing, we were all spoilt for choice! I did hear someone say we’ll be tossing the caber next year!

The main football match between UID and Talgarth was a roaring success. A heartfelt thanks to Chris, Talgarth’s coach for suggesting a minute of silence in honour of Mo prior to kick off. A wonderful gesture, which was respectfully honoured by both teams and onlookers alike. Despite the scoreline, the game itself was a lot closer than last year. Benjy, UID’ s new coach, is beginning to make his mark. Thanks to Talgarth FC for the use of their changing facilities.

As always, the lunch and tea breaks were outstanding. We can only marvel at the wonderful variety of food available and the work that goes into providing such feasts. Most dishes disappeared rapidly, as always is the case.

There are far too many names to mention in fear of leaving someone out. However, we will not tire in stating time and time again, that what you all do, really MAKES A DIFFERENCE. The positive impact on our group, asylum seekers and refugees alike is immeasurable.

Thank you for your wonderful support.

Stuart: Fablas! A made an amazing recovery & played the 2nd half of the football!  We let him sleep in today but he had a big plate of curry & rice for lunch. Thanks again for your invaluable help in looking after him. Katanga! 

Wayne: Thank you so much to HBTSR and the wonderful folk in Talgarth for the ongoing friendship and support. 

Sean: Our Away Day from Swansea piggybacked with Talgarth Sports Day, who, with Gwernyfed RFC The-Malthouse very kindly hosted us for the day. We had about 70 asylum seekers, who enjoyed a plethora of activities – fencing, volleyball, bell ringing, boxing, dancing… not to mention some wonderful food provided by our volunteers. The highlight of the day was the football match between Swansea’s Unity in Diversity, made up entirely of asylum seekers, versus the local Talgarth FC. Brilliant game….great skills on show and bursting with vitality right through to the end. The weather held up brilliantly for us and a great day was had by all. Thanks Talgarth for your very generous welcome.

Bethan: Thanks for coming and to @hbts4refugees for their fantastic efforts & organisation. We were lucky with the weather. Rain before Swansea. Was ace! Lovely people, lovely time. 

Trevor: A great day of sport and socialisation.

Jonathan: Hi Ailsa, Thanks for another great day. I started this mail about 30 mins ago, but got side tracked to the HBTSR web site and the report on the day. (I didn’t realise I’d had so much fun:). Seriously, what a great write up, and so quickly published too. Got me thinking about the value of social media, in terms of engagement / recognition, the impact of timing etc. Very good. The food and preparation at Talgarth was outstanding, really noteworthy. With many thanks for everybody’s efforts, and I look forward to catching up with you and Lawrence next time.