‘Thanks to the generosity of Gavin and Vina Hogg, Penpont House is a familiar venue to some. To others, it was the first time they had visited this beautiful house in superb grounds. However many times one visits Penpont House, there is always something new to be discovered.’
So wrote Maria, a volunteer with Swansea Asylum seekers support, who has been to so many of the days out that we organise and is always pleased to find a warm welcome amongst friends who want to help the same people that she sees so regularly. It is also lovely to have the chance to re-visit places where we have held Welcome days before because we know the facilities, the team who will be around and some of the worries about ‘having things right’- will there be enough food, of the right sort, are there any obvious major risks, will anyone come to help, will anyone come to visit etc – are assuaged. It is especially lovely to visit such a beautiful place with such gracious, friendly hosts and their many friends and to have the opportunity on this occasion to share this with others to mark Refugee Week and for the Great Get Together. We knew communities up and down the country were joining together to celebrate kindness, respect and all we have in common for the Great Get together weekend . Most won’t have done it in such beautiful surroundings or with so many people from so many different cultures and creeds. This year’s theme for Refugee Week was ‘you, me and those who came before’ and to celebrate in a house and gardens that have been in the same family since before 1666 was particularly noteworthy.
About 70 people came to help make the day a success and as we were sorting out the food, putting out chairs, arranging flowers,picking salad leaves,setting up pizza making, rehearsing a play and filling take home bags we heard from Swansea. “Sorry, Its the Swansea Half Marathon and
the route marshalls won’t let the bus leave! We’re trying to work something out and will ring when we can leave- but we will be late’. It gave some of us a chance to look at bits of the grounds we’d not explored before and others to have a coffee and chat, whilst the kitchen team ably led by Jackie [as always] worked their usual wonders with the many donations of stews, salads and cakes.
Mark arrived first with 3 passengers having been outside the cordon and although he’d hadn’t planned on driving was delighted to have managed to find bargains at a car boot sale on his way! Maria and Phil with another 3 passengers arrived at the same time as the coach full of excited people and suddenly the place was filled with laughter, chat and the smell of coffee. Apparently the wait to leave Swansea had been made more bearable by watching the runners go by and having drinks and food provided by Maria but appetites were back by the time they arrived!
The initial plans had been to watch a play performed by members of Heritage Theatre Cymru, have a guided walk and then have lunch but flexibility was the order of the day and a wander round followed by lunch before the play allowed for a dry walk before the rain arrived. A substantial and delicious lunch of different vegetable stews and salads and handmade pizza was followed by drinks and fruit. The afternoon started with a short play based upon a poem about a seaside visit that everyone enjoyed then people divided to play or watch a drizzly football game on the lawn or ride ponies whilst others walked in the soft rain exploring the walled garden and the maze and others stayed dry and checked through the donated clothing and household items or took the opportunity to chat with new found friends, or play table tennis!
Heritage Theatre Cymru, Pony rides, Table tennis , Mark finds an amazing maze, The makeshift Football changing room and the football.
Meanwhile, in a first for us ,Heritage Theatre Cymru did a workshop for children [and some adults] on the theme of going on a bear hunt. The adults and children alike really enjoyed not going over or under but wading through the swishy grass and so on. The children also enjoyed colouring pictures on cloth bags and whilst they would have loved to go out to find objects outside were quite pleased not to be wet. And really delighted with the books. Somewhere else face painting happened, Ako offered haircuts, music by Alan and Simon swirled around on the breeze and time passed quickly.
Sean finds a new tie, Gifts donated with love, sorted in splendour and hope of making the week ahead a little sweeter.
Then it was time for tea and cake and for people to leave. A large spread of cakes were demolished, more people had a chance to chat and with the drizzle not relenting the bus left before many had time to say goodbye and thanks for all the good memories! And we do all have so much in common and our lives are enriched by having diversity and friendship across areas and nations.
A little note about the horse riding:- This is a high risk activity but we carefully manage the risk by having very tame animals who are led by very experienced people and people ride wearing appropriate hats and shoes. It is such a welcome activity for children and adults alike and whilst Fiona initially came with little ponies recently she has brought a bigger horse too as adults are keen to ride. Fiona said how much she enjoyed sharing the horses with people seeking sanctuary as she gets to know them and realises many have had to leave beloved animals including horses at home. Some she’d seen several times and this time they plucked up courage to ride. And it wasn’t raining, indeed it was barely a caress!
Thanks to Vina and Gavin and family for all their hard work and generosity in allowing us to have such a great day again.
to Margaret and Pat for coordination
to Arlene and Heritage Theatre Cymru for a lovely play and family bear hunt workshop.
to Jackie, Bernie and others in the kitchen team
to Alex and family for Pizza
To Fiona, Mary and Anna for the ponies.
to Alan and Simon for lovely music
to Philip, Sue, Andrew, Penny and others for Welcoming duties
to all the people who provided food, gifts and toiletries.
to all the people who came to help and to those who came from Swansea – Especialy Maria, Phil, Thanu, Gayan and Mark for coordination and to Stuart for driving the coach
At 10am this morning our coach pulled away to start the journey to Penpont House. Unfortunately, despite the best laid plans, the roads in Swansea were all closed for the Swansea half marathon. We could not leave for another hour but all was well. All travellers were patient, and our hosts were typically flexible and laid back about our late arrival.
Thanks to the generosity of Gavin and Vina Hogg, Penpont House is a familiar venue to some. To others, it was the first time they had visited this beautiful house in superb grounds. However many times one visits Penpont House, there is always something new to be discovered.
Margaret Blake coordinated this fantastic day, supported by ( too many to name)members of HBTSR, who never fail to provide donations of homemade, nutritious food, drinks, snacks, cakes, clothes and household goods which are invaluable to so many living on £37 a week. Jackie and the team in the kitchen have to be given a special mention but all others know who they are.
We were treated to a theatre show, face painting, crafts, walks, pony rides and the rain did not deter many from a game of football.
The devotion of so many members of HBTSR is humbling. They are familiar faces to us volunteers, and to some who have been waiting for an answer to their claim for asylum for many years. They are friendly welcoming faces to new arrivals ,who are far away from home, family and friends.
Thanks to each and every person who contributed to the marvellous day in any way. Such warmth and generosity ( of spirit and of pocket!) would be difficult to match. It is a pleasure and a privilege to spend time with such an exceptional group of people who consistently, organise and ‘pull off’, days which offer an escape to a large number of people, who are not always welcomed in our society as we would wish. People who are often traumatised by their experiences, lonely and unsure of their identity in a new country, and under enormous stress as they navigate their way through the asylum process.
A final thanks to Gavin and Vina. We appreciate your kindness and continuing support. Your generosity has allowed hundreds of people to experience the best of Welsh/ British hospitality. I’m sure that a visit to your unique home will be a fond memory of many, as they hopefully settle and integrate into our society, wherever that may be.
Thank you so much….
From Swansea Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Volunteers
An eventful day, leaving Swansea was a challenge. As a result of the delays, we lost the sunny spells at Penpont. No matter the weather, Penpont is always a lovely place to be. Wonderful hosts, amazing food and the activities were amazing.
Pony/ horse ride was the favorite among children and adults. It was so much fun and something most of us wouldn’t be able to experience otherwise. Big thank to Fiona, Anna and the other lovely lady Mary for nonstop rides in the rain. We love Compo and Troy ❤
Kids loved the theatre session. Spoke highly on the way home. My little one wasn’t happy when I called her out while she was with the theatre group. She questioned me ‘why did you do that mum? ‘ as she didn’t want to miss a moment.
We loved the tour to the beautiful walled garden. It such a lovely place to be even if it was raining.
I must praise kitchen crew. They did an amazing job and of course the other supporters of HBTRS. Big Thank to Vina and Gavin for hosting another amazing Welcome day at beautiful Penpont. We look forward till the next one. And Massive Thank to amazing HBTRS for organising another successful Welcome Day for us.
Thank you for a wonderful day at Penpont. It was such a rewarding event and the people we met were all so very lovely. Your welcome team were very helpful. Jackie and her hospitality group were so efficient and friendly and their appreciation for the food and return of dishes etc showed real attention to detail, with excellent feedback on the fare. Vina and Gavin were wonderful hosts and the space upstairs for the play and activities was perfect.
The visitors were such vibrant and interesting people – it was a pleasure to meet them. We hope to see them again and wish them well for their plans in Wales.The children were so well focused and very beautiful in their interest and engagement. The young men were all warm, polite and interested in our work too and interacted with such encouragement. Your personal planning, enthusiasm and warmth with such a diverse group -was first class in such a role of leadership. It was an absolute pleasure for Heritage Theatr Cymru to participate in the day’s events.
We are glad our input blended in well. Thank you for your feedback from Swansea. It was interesting and no problem to change our programme around a little, except it was a shame the rain prevented Maggie’s “art on a journey” section which fitted in with the objects set up from the play extract and to miss subsequently, the use of the storytelling books for drama in outside spaces which could have given even more opportunity for settling the visitors. However, maybe it was good to start in this focused way, as I felt working in the delightful upper space was great too.I felt a little self conscious personally, to sit out of the games but had fallen down some stairs the week previously, so have been advised to be very careful with current activities. Now we understand the set up for Penpont, we have lots of scope to devise something for next time, if possible.
The HTC team enjoyed the day and the fun of cooking and planning for it.
Thank you so much for hosting us and for the opportunity, with all of your valued support and kind words. I hope we can stay closely in touch and you will allow us to continue to support this successful and worthy charity.