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A Precious time at Penpont

‘Today for the first time in a week, I feel some hope.’

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We have all been so saddened by the death of Eyob who was a popular member of UID  football team and remembered by many for his gentle, friendly smile. It was good that so many people from Swansea felt able to share a day with us given this sadness and that they were able to return to Swansea in time to go to the first of a number of memorial services being held for him. Money has already been raised to repatriate his body and help towards the funeral but any extra will be used locally to help people seeking asylum.

I was reminded by S that so many of the people seeking asylum are in great hardship and very difficult circumstances. They have struggled to get here to escape horrors at home, are forced to relive these  to try to explain why they can’t return, are constantly uncertain about their future, not allowed any form of employment, may be destitute without home or money, with a threat of detention without limits, exposed to casual racism, xenophobia,vilified in the press and understandably may be  seriously depressed. S said that she struggles at times to imagine a future but that the day out with friends meant a great deal- something different and nice to think about and to know that there are people who care.

Our hosts  Gavin and Vina and their beautiful home.

Thus for 75 people seeking asylum or refuge and over 100 local supporters and friends, Sunday 24th September was a day to remember. A day to wander around a spectacular country estate, to ride ponies, to paint, to make pizza, to try different crafts, to play football,to try fly fishing, to chat, to look through loads of donated clothes and household goods and to eat and drink with friends.

Donations sorting team in palatial setting, Some of the Kitchen Team and the clothing area.

We arranged a bus from Swansea ably driven by Stuart which 50 people travelled upon. Maggie escorted 4 families from Ystradgynlais on the Traws Cymru service, one family came up by car [ managing to get lost on the way] and our friends from Herefordshire came again. Travel sickness remains an occasional problem and one poor boy from Ystrad managed to make it to Penpont before vomiting profusely onto the grass verge!

The banners and Margaret getting ready to welcome the intrepid travellers from Ystradgynlais

Many of our group had arrived soon after 9 to help set up. Virginia’s lovely signs were in evidence, our banners hid the farm shop signs for the day, our new banner stood proudly, donations were laid out and some bagged up ready to go home with guests, some were kept for raffle prizes to raise funds for future trips or to go to the drop in centres and others to be taken if wanted before being sent to Swansea Humanitarian Aid Response Project for onwards transport to Calais, Samos, Syria or for Swansea people in need.

Lawrence, Ailsa and Philip getting ready to Welcome and Vina putting up signs

Since quite a few people had visited before, they were able to show each other around and walking around the grounds I was struck by how many people were exploring. The maze and the grass labyrinth were popular  to look at but the weather, which had favoured us all day, ran out at 4.30 just when we thought of having races around the labyrinth.

the maze from above

The day started with drinks, biscuits, and fruit and rapidly merged into lunch with a variety of vegetable stews, curries, handmade breads  and salads followed by fruit and cakes for tea. As always, there was a great variety and quantity of high quality food and an enormous amount of cake including a birthday cake for 3 year old A who was dressed as a princess for cutting the cake but insisted on putting her more ordinary clothes back on soon after! Jackie led the kitchen team by example and by the end of the day was the last person standing. As always, many hands made light of the work and I am sorry but not able to recall all the people I noted on my occasional forays into the kitchen.Trevor, Julia, Lynne, Penny, Andrew,Melrose, Moira, Robert, Veronika,Pauline,Lawrence and Claire were part of the team as well as many others.   Dante was, as always, a ray of sunshine helping to give out drinks and food. John Ayre entertained with guitar music during lunch.

Some of the cakes and the birthday cake with the ‘princess’.

On this occasion, the sun shone and many events took place in the courtyard. Alex brought his pizza oven and gave very popular lessons on preparation whilst his children played with many new found friends. Paintings were left to dry on the stone walls, [ Phil and others] Tanwen came with paints to glaze models made in the recent past, a small creche area with toys seemed arrive magically [Sabrina  and Susan] and parents and others sat and chatted.  Athene worked with some people on leather crafts.  Dream pillow cases[ ‘think good thoughts that create good things’] were made although Sue said less people made them because the weather encouraged people to be outside playing. She was thrilled that one boy had made a pillow case with the crest of his football team carefully painted on. and had discussed how much he enjoys playing with the team. [ Thanks to all who shared their time and skills here ]

Pony rides with Fiona and Kate [ and thanks to Petra and Zoe as well for the loan of the ponies who behaved impeccably] took place just outside the courtyard, most children had several rides and  all the girls from Ystrad went home asking for ponies. The ponies behaved impeccably but their handlers must have walked miles with them by the end of the day!

Many people walked to and fro on the bridge watching the river and the fly fishing . So many people wanted a go that we must try to offer this again. Pat was very patient and I’m told that no fish were harmed in this activity although occasional people caught trees!

We tried to explain Pooh sticks to A but I think a lot was lost in translation. Why would anyone think dropping sticks into water, running across the bridge and seeing which came out first would be of interest?

Woodworking with Gareth was enjoyed by many and I saw several men clutching their handiwork to take home. two young boys spent over an hour on the treadle with sharp tools making  sticks/twigs and producing lots of wood shavings. Gareth uses  traditional methods and it was good to see how rapidly people were at ease using the tools and techniques.



Football on the lawn  with Lawrence, Phil and others was popular as always although the Unity in Diversity football team were absent due to  a training session in Swansea. This may have been how my cousin Neil managed to score, beating some 10 year old defenders in his dash to the pullovers marking the goals!

Neil modestly celebrating a score and Penpont house with a football on lawn

The Alive and Kicking Choir entertained in the courtyard and had everyone joining in with a wide variety of songs and whilst the original idea had been to give them tea at the end of their performance before others, everyone joined in with tea and cakes early! Such a wonderful selection of deliciousness could not be delayed!


The final surprise was the acclaimed clown Goffee arriving to entertain everyone in the courtyard. I had been initially apprehensive that some children might have been scared  by him but apart from one baby who objected to the brass instrument noise, everyone else was laughing, shouting, giggling and chuckling at his antics and offering him advice about where to look or what to do.  A wonderful finale to a 3rd birthday, to a day that was much needed to show people that they are welcome despite all that the press says, a day to give good memories, to provide a little ray of hope that better times may come and for all of us a day to celebrate our common humanity with old and new friends  and with neighbours.

Thanks feels insufficient to express our enormous gratitude to Gavin and Vina for the use of their conference centre and grounds and the help of their very many friends and neighbours. It was a wonderful much needed day out enjoyed by everyone.

Thanks to all who gave food, toiletries, clothing, bedding, household goods or their time and effort. It really was much  appreciated. Thanks again to Liz and the Matthews family for the donation of several hundred eggs- People remark upon how yellow and tasty they are.



So full of admiration….what a lovely day. Great to see your team working so well together!Thanks for welcoming us as well. Ruth and Harry xxx

Hello ,
Please excuse the thank you being a little belated. We arrived back in Swansea after a wonderful day out at Penpont House and then attended a memorial service at one of the churches Eyob attended. It was very well attended but emotional and we felt proud that there were people there to remember Eyob from numerous communities. We had joined together because he had touched all our lives in different ways.
On behalf of us all from Swansea, grateful thanks go to so many who yet again turned up and produced wonderful food, washed up, sorted, packed bags and many other things that are too many to mention. However, if one of those ‘things’ had not been done it would not have been as successful as it was. This was a much needed morale booster for our friends seeking refuge, and for volunteers who try to support them.
As you all know, we recently lost Eyob, a special member of our community, in tragic circumstances and we are all grieving in our own ways. The day on Sunday helped the process. Many ‘regulars’ feel comforted by the welcome and presence of familiar smiling faces. New members are astounded at the welcome, the kindness, the beauty of the surroundings and the fact they can relax and enjoy a day with friends.
The choir were wonderful and lifted the spirits of many. Music is an international language – it brought a lump to my throat to see a handful of people smile or laugh, who I had never seen do that before. You make such a difference. We cannot provide this kind of experience for them and it is special and much needed. As volunteers we appreciate your support so much – we feel we are not alone in what is sometimes an overwhelming situation.
We were blessed with the weather , this allowed the additional experience of being outdoors. So much effort had been put into the activities which were so appreciated. The pizza making was a big success and prompted conversations. The joy of one young traumatised woman as she walked around the walled garden was touching. So many kind people, chatting, smiling, caring.
It is so reassuring to see all your friendly faces on our arrival, and I am only sorry I did not get to speak to you all.
It was lovely to meet new members and choir members who came along on the day. I know this can sometimes be an overwhelming experience and hope it was worthwhile. It was good to meet you all. It was also good to meet the famous ‘ 2 Ruths’ – always much better when you meet face to face. Thanks for the introduction Ailsa.

Finally, the people that it would not have happened without!! Thank you Gavin and Vina for your hospitality and generosity. You have a wonderful home and we are so fortunate that you were kindly willing to share it.

I will have no doubt forgotten to mention something – forgive me.
Thank you one and all from the bottom of our hearts.

 A great day it was lovely to be part of it.  Julia&Trevor.

Thank you,Tanya Walker and the amazing Alive and Kicking choir -Lynne

Thank you once again for such a warm welcome yesterday – blown away by it all (and by the donations!) Thank you everyone for your generosity xxx Ruth

We had such a lovely day out. Our young girl was able to talk in her own language for a few hours, laugh with new friends and feel closeness with others who had lived through similar life experience. It was wonderful to see her so happy. Thank you. Barbara and Tony.

Another great ‘ Away Day’ at Penpont with our refugee guests – featuring the Alive and Kicking community choir, ponies, fly fishing and much, much more. Many thanks to our generous hosts and to everyone who donated food, cakes, time, talents and effort. As ever, the result was a welcome respite from the stresses of life for the refugees – and much fun and friendship for all of us there. Margaret

We had heard about these days out from our cousins and wanted to experience one. It was truly an amazing day. We have been on holiday doing things that we love with people that we love  but this day was the highlight of our holiday. A day of joy, friendship and fun- so important to show people how much they matter and to promote understanding. We are all brothers and sisters. Please do keep on doing this. Suzy.

How can we ever thank you enough! Your hospitality and generosity enabled all of us there to have such an enjoyable day and it provided real respite for our guests. Such happy faces and shouts of glee from the children plus peace, tranquility and friendships for the adults. Thank you for all your hard work in enabling this day of blessings to go so smoothly. Margaret

I will definitely pass on everyone’s acknowledgements and comments to the choir. They will be so pleased!
We were all so glad to be involved in the day and loved it so much!
Thank you so much for asking us and please think about about including us at future events!!  Warmest wishes Tanya