“I’ve not lived here long so I don’t know if an away day would work , ‘ Mike said about 8 months ago. So he and Ailsa met with the local community to ask views and the meeting was supportive. The primary school was keen to hear more so Mike and Sue went to talk about seeking refuge and how a day out can mean so much and they immediately suggested bringing their choir, collecting toiletries and encouraging pupils to join in with a fun day. Mike spoke to local friends, the football team, the tennis club and the churches and chapels and the local pub- everyone was enthusiastic and wanted to help. So reassured, plans were made for the 15th April and the hall was booked, the football pitches borrowed, tennis coaching offered, walks arranged, equipment borrowed from the store and a large variety of indoor activities suggested with people to organise them. Food was promised from many people including a lady who has recently returned from the refugee camps in Northern Greece and another who had been in Ethiopia.
Sunday started with low cloud and light drizzle but as always once everyone started working and arriving the weather didn’t matter at all. We were undoubtedly helped by the size of Llangynidr hall which accommodated well over a hundred people with plenty of space to spare and as always the warmth of welcome and enthusiasm of guests meant no one worried about the lack of sun. Llangynidr turned out in force to ensure that everyone felt welcome and was well fed!
Volunteers setting up
Gwyneth kindly coordinated the kitchen activities with considerable anxiety and despite it being a new kitchen, she did a splendid job. Food arrived in bowls, plates, tins and pans and in enormous quantities. Jane had promised enough salad and falafel for 50 and she didn’t lie! Corinne said she’d bring enough chicken and egg stew for 30 and the Red Lion Pub gave enough mushroom and spinach lasagne for 20 with various others contributing tabbouleh, stews, curries, hummus and large quantities of fruit. I’ve never seen so many and such a variety of cake and biscuits and that was before the Church and chapels arrived to do tea bringing even more! The tables set with our lovely colourful tablecloths were laden with bowls of salad, fruit and cakes to welcome people and topped up with extras as the day went on.
Alex and family arrived with both the flat bread oven and the bread oven and people had the opportunity to make both and everyone had the chance to eat the delicious flatbreads! It was lovely to watch so many people rolling out the breads and one lady who had obviously made flatbreads before was spinning them.
The activity providers arrived and set up at tables around the hall and children’s toys were found so that children could play whilst their parents sat and chatted. Separate women and men’s prayer rooms were provided [ Complete with massage therapist for the women!] and a large area found to display the rapidly growing pile of clothes, bedding and household goods. Llangynidr hall was likened to the Tardis – if a room or space was needed it was there!
After the bus arrived from Swansea and cars from Ystradgynlais and Abergavenny , the Llangynidr School Choir sang some beautiful welcome songs and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to be moved by the tunefulness of their singing. Once the welcomes were done and everyone had a drink and snack the activities started.
A walk to the river and canal proved popular and seeing barges was a great bonus. People returned excited to tell us of what they had seen and done.
All the indoor activities proved very popular with everyone and provided great opportunities for locals and visitors to have fun together. The clay models were presented to parents in little boxes which looked lovely and the prints went home with some of the women who may make them into cushions/ wall hangings or lavender bags. A collection of threads and buttons found a receptive home and they will be shared with one of the Women’s groups in Swansea. The nature table was a great idea and should be repeated at future days as a great way to teach people names of plants [and to see tadpoles]. Face-painting was as popular as ever and everyone seemed to enjoy the art and colouring opportunities. Cake decorating was enjoyed by so many people and I saw many examples of beautiful designs being eaten! Knitting proved popular with many and a great chance to chat.
Throughout the day Justin, Paul and Thomasin provided a musical back drop and were frequently joined by people wanting to share new songs or join in with old ones.
Tennis was enjoyed as a new experience for some and a welcome chance to practice for others. The weather put off some! The play ground outside was not used as much as we’d thought it might be due to the rain and the size of the hall meant people could play comfortably inside.
Lunch and Tea were a great success with well over a hundred and fifty people managing to eat delicious and tasty food . Sandwiches and cakes for tea were provided by the Church and both Chapels working in unison and giving the people who had worked so hard on catering and washing up for lunch a welcome break.
The donations of clothing, bedding and household goods were popular and large amounts went on the day with the rest to be transported to Swansea to go to other people there or to be transported to refugee camps abroad. Generous donations of toiletries, sanitary goods and treats were bagged up and put onto the bus for distribution later, given to the Syrian families who had joined us from Ystrad and Abergavenny and surplus given to Maria who will share with others at the drop in who were unable to attend. Someone generously donated about a dozen pots of local honey that were snapped up.
Mandy Mills from Powys teaching Health Board engagement team joined us and chatted to people about their experiences of health care and what could be done to improve access to services.
This was another great day out for so many of us with great opportunities to make new friends and to met with old friends and to have fun. It was like an all day party with everyone enjoying themselves. Oh and we also raised over £250!
* Marjorie Davies & the Village Hall committee: for working round the clock to clean and prepare the new kitchen at the Hall for its first use after a complete refit, and for cleaning the hall after a day of being tramped on by scores of our muddy shoes
* Llangynidr Parish Church and the upper and lower Chapels, for providing the afternoon tea, cakes and sandwiches and a wonderful clean up job on the kitchen at the end of the day
* The Red Lion pub for a tray of delicious lasagne
* Gwyneth Love for taking charge of the kitchen, co-ordinating the meals for over 100 people and providing strawberries and cream for everyone
* Sian Shepherdson (Acting Head) and the children of Llangynidr School for bringing their choir for a lively and moving recital of welcome songs, for the vast quantity of toiletries and children’s toys they assembled at the school and donated to our guests, and for involving so many parents and children in the day
* Alex Benfield and family for cooking flat-bread for everyone for lunch and involving people in making bread
* John and Elizabeth Gibbs for organising the after lunch walk to the Canal and River Usk, and for their interesting display in the hall of local flora and fora
* Chris Hill for providing tennis equipment and training
* Clair Jones, and the coaches of Llangynidr Junior Football club for providing nets, balls and lots of children and young people to play football
* Nancy Cavill for help mobilising support in the village, especially among parents
* Jonah Webb for putting together a team of Dads to play football with our refugee guests
* Justin, Paul and Thomasin for music
* Local artist Rachel Cadman for providing the clay modelling which was a hit with children throughout the day
* Lisa and helpers for wonderful face painting
* Local artists Pip Woolf and Gil Chambers for the print-making activity where dozens of children made prints of leaves and other designs
* Professional masseuse Sarah Logan for providing head and shoulder massage for women seeking sanctuary.
* Deirdre Houghton from Christ College Brecon for the art workshop
* Louise Barlow for delicious cakes and for the cup-cake icing –lots of children joined in to make their own designs
* Helen O’Sullivan and Jane Smith for providing the play mats and equipment for the youngest children and creating a popular crêche in the middle of the hall
* Marjorie Davies and the knitting group for donating jumpers and providing needles, wool and knitting instruction
Thanks for food — too numerous to mention,but maybe special thanks (in addition to those mentioned above) to:
* Pria for a huge dish of vegetarian curry
* Jane Braun, Corinne Harris, Harriet Tod, Janet Hughes (and many others) provided vegetarian and chicken dishes for us all
Of our numerous HBTSR core volunteers especial thanks to:
* Virginia for making signs and sorting mountains of donated toiletries, food and clothes
* Phillip and the team of welcomers
* Melrose for detailed help and advice with all the preparations
* Sue Richards for her excellent talk to the assembly at Llangynidr School.* Lawrence for help with recycling and return of HBTSR stock.*Steve for help with the clothing and household donations
And thanks to all the so many people who came and helped to make this such a successful day.
Thanks from Maria
Llangynidr – ‘a village in Wales with two public houses, a primary school and a local shop’. This is how Llangnidr is briefly described when I ‘ googled’ it yesterday.Today, more than sixty asylum seekers, refugees and volunteers discovered that Llangynidr was so much more than that. We were overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome and generosity we received. It seemed that the entire village had come out to welcome, host and integrate with a group of strangers whom they had never met before.What an advertisement !
HBTSR are well known for the wonderful and tireless way they support asylum seekers and refugees in all manner of ways. Mike, a founder member and his wife Sue, initiated and helped to coordinate this exceptional day in the village they moved to a few years ago. They were overwhelmed by the positive reaction of the community they chose to move to a few years ago.
The hard work that goes into an event like this does not go unnoticed and is appreciated more, not less, as time goes on. It is impossible to thank individuals but each and every individual played an important role in the success of today.
The weather was ‘ welsh’ and could not be adjusted, yet this did not stop more than a hundred men, women and children, of all ages, able bodied and disabled, born in different place all over the world, from eating, chatting, laughing, playing, cooking and singing together.
The food was ‘out of this world’ and plentiful. So many had prepared and cooked, so many served and washed dishes. There were activities provided for everyone – face painting, cake icing, art and craft,clay modelling, print making and knitting. Many enjoyed a fantastic walk with an interesting guide via the River Usk. Football was enjoyed by many, young and old, skilled and not so skilled.
One young man from Sudan told me delightedly that he had played tennis for the first time since he arrived in the country. R from Pakistan told me that he and his wife and four children don’t get to go out much due to the cost and having no transport. They thoroughly enjoyed the day – he said he felt ‘ peace’ today for the first time in a long time. So many told me that they enjoyed the countryside, the fresh air, the wonderful food and the welcome from ‘lovely’ people. It was the first time Y from Eritrea had been on a trip- he looked younger and more carefree than I had seen him since he arrived in Swansea 5 months ago.
A, F and H were taken with Justin and Thomasin. They chatted and sang quietly. N , a Kurdish lady, came into her own, outshining Alex at rolling bread dough for flatbreads in a way that left several spectators speechless. Thank you Alex for your continued support. There was a variety of indoor play apparatus, appreciated by parents of younger children. It was heartening to see the local children and our friends, play together, seemingly without a care.
Many, many thanks to all who donated anything. Money can and is, always appreciated and used wisely. Clothes, toys and household items are always gratefully received. Each person went home with a bag of toiletries and the ‘ leftovers’ will be shared among our friends in Swansea, who were not able to join us today. Toiletries are always appreciated, especially women’s sanitary products. These donations will allow our friends to have more of their weekly money available for food or bus fares. It also makes them feel wanted and welcomed, when so many feel isolated and unwanted, thanks in part to unsympathetic media coverage.
As always, thanks to the stalwarts of HBTSR , many of whom are familiar to us and our friends. They were able to warmly congratulate C from Cameroon on a judge’s positive decision on his case. They have become amongst his closest friends during a four year ordeal. Their support cannot be adequately described in words. So much of what they do is not known about. They also provide unceasing moral support to us volunteers in Swansea, who occasionally become weary with the enormity of the need. We always enjoy the opportunity to have time to talk with / eat with our friends on days like today. Usually we are too busy at the drop ins to casually chat.
It was lovely to see and meet the schoolchildren who sang beautifully and added to the occasion. Thanks to their teachers, parents and carers for supporting the day. Also to the two chapels, church for all they did. The flowers, welcome banners etc do not go unnoticed.
So Llangnidr, your secret is out. We very much hope to meet you again in the future, when you have recovered sufficiently!
With thanks and grateful appreciation to one and all,
From all of us from Swansea who enjoyed your generous hospitality today.