‘We are begged by those leaving, to be put on the list for the next trip and when the visits are so good we know why. It is such a boost to the morale to be treated so well and to have such fun. It helps to get through the anxious scary times ‘.
Kitchen team starting up, Phil in position ready to welcome and the sign by the gate.
After a slightly shaky start to the day when we realised how much we have come to rely upon Stuart’s immaculate time keeping, we all had a superb day that was like a festival of fun, music, clowning, art,walking and FOOD. The coach left a little late but the time was quickly made up and the bus picked up some of the Ystradgynlais Syrian families on the way with most of the others following by car. Arrival at Penpont in the sunshine was such a bonus. With over sixty supporters waiting and ready to serve drinks, biscuits, fruit , the day was set up with a large range of activities and time to chat.
Phil by his full boot, Penny and Andrew emptying theirs, Eggs to go home, Delicious bread arriving
Penny and Andrew had a good collection of fruit and vegetables from Aldi and bags were packed with these and many other generous donations from the local Brownies and Guides packs and Sennybridge school. Some of the organic handwash from HerbFarmacy made it into each bag and as soon as the bus arrived, 36 bags and many boxes of eggs were loaded on ready for distribution at the end of the day. As Maria and Phil arrived their car boot was filled with donations of sanitary towels, nappies and food stuffs [ thanks to Jasper for his very generous Cash and carry shopping] and a pile of toiletries that can be used for new arrivals and people in extra need. People all walked round past the elephants [ hedge] and the knot garden to the old stable block for drinks and the start of feasting!.
The square preparing and the signs.
There were quite a few new faces on this trip including a friend of a friend of A who turned out to be a Greek citizen and not to be seeking asylum. He had a great time but was told it wasn’t really appropriate for him to come next time with several more friends…Though one could fully understand why he might want to do so. One girl asked if there would be pony rides and I was so pleased to discover that there was. The very well behaved pony walked back and forwards across the bridge with is owner throughout the day and he didn’t seem inclined to leave at the end of the day- much like most of the people.
Alex’s pizza oven was in action throughout the day and again many enjoyed being able to make their own lunch supplemented by the generous amounts of curries and vegetable dishes on offer from the kitchen. Jackie and a very willing team of kitchen helpers kept everyone supplied with food and drink.
Outside in the square with Alex were tables for Kite making, Printing, Face-painting , leather making, jewellery making and our own ‘demon barber’ set up stall again. He gave many young boys their summer hair cuts and tided up some others including Cllr David who left looking very smart. Several men sporting longer hair had beard trims and eyebrow tiding and all seemed pleased with the end result. Again he stressed how pleased he was to be able to give something back and to be able to help some of the people who had helped him. He was delighted with the write up from the Western Mail 21st April featuring his photo. During most of the day there was music provided by a number of talented musicians and many of the visitors enjoyed being able to take photos of themselves holding a guitar and pretending to join in. The gentle music underlined the wonder of the day, with a feast for the senses- ears full of beautiful sounds and chatter, eyes assaulted by colour and people milling around happily, nose tempted by smells of delicious food and mood uplifted by the magnificence of it all.
Kites, The barber, his handiwork and entertainment.
Pond dipping was popular [ after risk assessments were completed] as was the walk to see the 2000 year old Yew tree and walks around the Maze were also enjoyed. Football on the lawn seemed to be a little quieter than usual – anything to do with Swansea’s demotion to a lower league? Fly fishing looked so peaceful although Pat reported that the watching crowd weren’t especially quiet and nothing was caught! Green wood working was enjoyed as well by many.
Meanwhile quietly in the dining room in the brief interludes between meals Lesley took up the Eugene mantle and sketched some of the visitors. I eavesdropped on a conversation when she was being asked about her art career and the questioner talked about trying to do GCSE Art.
A large collection of clothes were looked through by men, women and children and despite many bags being taken there remains a good amount to be taken down for Swansea Humanitarian Aid Response Project.
Tea and cakes were as always popular with one supporter commenting that they could see why we always needed so many. ‘They just vanish!’
Vina and Gavin were the perfect hosts calmly accepting hundreds of people wandering around their beautiful home and grounds and encouraging all their friends and families to join in. We all sat and enjoyed watching the ‘world famous and internationally renowned Clown’ Goffee trying to perform his wonderful brand of misrule whilst being severely upstaged by some little children who seemed intent upon unpacking his case and generally removing items that he might need. The sound of laughter was a fitting end to a very special day.
Very Grateful thanks to
Alex – pizza making
Athene – leather engraving
Gareth – green woodworker
Musicians: Paul, Al, Simon
Rachel – kite making
Lynn & Vina – face painting
Claire and the Tawe Guild – weaving
Susan and Chris – printing
Val – pond dipping
Goffee the Clown
Pat – fly fishing
Jackie and the kitchen team
Chee Ai – chilli preserves making
Kate – pony rides
… and a fantastic team of helpers!
Aldi and Penny and Andrew for collecting
Liz and Paul for eggs,
Generous donations allowing us to give bags to take home
At approximately 5pm today, a bus full of smiling, relaxed adults and children all far away from home, were waved off by the generous hosts of Penpont House ( Gavin and Vina) and the wonderful people of HBTSR. One supporter had a tear in his eye and said “ I didn’t know I had it in me to cry like this”. The generosity , warmth, friendship, acceptance and spirit of humanity pervaded the entire day.
Vina and Gavin offered their wonderful home to be enjoyed by a group of asylum seekers and refugees from Swansea and neighbouring Ystradgynlais, who spend most of their lives in a state of chronic anxiety, poverty and isolation. Vina and Gavin, along with family and two adorable lurchers, effortlessly integrate into the day, sharing their home and the surroundings with those less fortunate than themselves.
In another life, these people were lawyers, doctors , mechanics, engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers…. with self respect, money and loving families and friends. Due to circumstances beyond their control, they risked all to save their lives and their freedom of speech and/or religion. Each has their own unique story.
Today at Penpont, each one could forget their worries for a short while and relax in the sun, engage in one of the many activities provided and chat – in addition they enjoyed the bountiful, delicious, nutritious food , sourced and cooked with love by people with empathy for their fellow man. How reassuring to see this unfolding today.. An antidote to current media stories. There really are people who acknowledge their comfortable lives and want to share and engage with those who , for whatever reason, have had to leave theirs.
The need is huge. We are begged by those leaving, to be put on the list for the next trip. These respite trips are over subscribed and there are always those who are disappointed.
As long term volunteers we listen to each one telling us why they and their family ‘ need’ these days so much. All have valid reasons and it is a difficult and challenging task to turn away some and tell them they will be on the next one!
We were blessed with sunshine which is always an added bonus. Thank you to whoever ordered that! So many activities were enjoyed thanks to many generous folk who gave up their time . The ‘ Clown’ was a great success, an abundance of crafts, face painting, pizza making,leather crafting by the wonderful Sadler, guitar playing and singing, pony rides,the maze, fly fishing, football, a walk through the grounds- one enthusiast even took a dip in the river. Clothes were set out and offered to all, goodie bags of food, organic eggs and toiletries were gratefully accepted. These will make the following week easier for our friends who are on very limited budgets. Yet, my overall feeling was that it was the welcome, the friendship and the inclusion that came top of the list To feel wanted and to belong is a basic human need … A group of more than 50 people felt this today.
Needless to say this did not happen by itself! HBTSR’s ability to coordinate and organise such an event is outstanding. Margaret and Pat were the lead coordinators today- thank you both for this and for your unstinting, understated support and understanding. Thanks to Ailsa, Steve, all those who sourced, collected, prepared, cooked and washed up. Thanks to all who gave of their time in any way to listen, interact, smile or direct. Each one of you played an important unique part in today’s success. Thanks to those who have not been mentioned but were there.
As volunteers, it is reassuring to feel we have this huge back up of strength and positive moral and practical support behind us. The trust that has been built up between this group and ourselves, allows so many to access experiences that they otherwise may not have had. Sometimes the support they offer has been lifesaving to individuals.
Thank you one and all, from Swansea Asylum Seekers Support and our friends from Swansea and Ystradgynlais, who will treasure lovely memories from today.