Funding from the National Lottery Community Fund allowed this year’s project to go ahead and on the first weekend in July 2019 there were 77 grateful and happy beneficiaries- 65 participants and 12 leaders. Again PGL had agreed ‘Mate’s Rates’ so that we could afford to bring so many people and we also had a good deal with Tregoyd Riding Holidays/ Cadarn Bunkhouse where all the female participants and staff slept[ or chatted] overnight. Gathering in the application forms and information was not easy as many of the participants lead very chaotic lives, not knowing for sure where they will be, making it hard to plan ahead and the leaders were fully occupied before taking on the additional work of gathering forms and spending a weekend away. We are very grateful that they agreed to do this as their busy weekend became 65 participants’ weekend of a lifetime chance to make new friends [ As one person said ‘to learn how to make new friends’] to learn some new skills and to learn more about themselves and others whilst having great fun.
Allocation of places wasn’t easy either with many more wanting to come than spaces and in the end we relied upon our partners in the project [ Newport Sanctuary Project, Llanishen High School, TGP Cymru and Swansea City of Sanctuary] to select the people that they felt would benefit most or would help the overall running. Actual people participating altered right up until the afternoon of the 5th July as leaders found substitutes for the people suddenly unable to attend which even meant some leaders were brought in at the last hour! Flexibility remained the order of the day throughout the weekend as transport arrangements were altered, meal times changed, activity plans moved around and evening entertainment rejigged. “Herding cats would be easier’ was said by many people as trying to bring such a diverse group into some semblance of order began to seem impossible. And yet everyone arrived, ate, did activities, laughed, danced and sang at approximately the correct time and place! This was due in no small part to the wonderful PGL staff and our fantastic volunteer leaders. It was gratifying to see the groups and leaders bonding and leaders who had to work together despite never meeting before achieving this so well.
Learning from last year when it was hard to keep people in groups, we had wristbands of differing colours for each group and ,whilst many claimed to have lost them in the shower on the first morning , this did seem to help with group cohesion and the leader’s lanyards helped to easily identify who was participant and who was leader – important when when all seemed so young! We had made welcome bags with a bottle of water, a snack, a pack of cards, a pencil, a black bag and some information for all participants. We thought that this might come in useful for the water sport dry bag and for some it did – but for some the whole dry bag concept was lost! Our leaders had similar bags with evaluation forms, pens [ kindly donated by Barclays Bank] and sweets.
Lawrence, Robert, Melrose and Charlottle preparing to welcome 65 young people and 12 helpers and Steve putting up the lottery banner
So Friday evening saw a welcoming party at Llwyn Filly of PGL staff with leaders, Lucy and Sian, and our members, Margaret, Lawrence, Robert, Melrose, Charlotte,Steve and Ailsa awaiting arrivals. We already knew several potential leaders were unable to come but Mark had found 2 new replacements, the Newport participants’ list was only finalised during the afternoon.[ I’d given up trying to alter the rooming plans and activity groups by then] and Sian had 4 replacements for boys who had dropped out. Although we’d anticipated the buses arriving about an hour apart, in fact they all arrived at similar times which made check in slightly unwelcoming and muddled as we tried to match listed names with pronounciation, rooms, substitutes, groups , give a bag , find drinks and give instructions. Thanks to Brydie, Margaret , Melrose and Charlotte for their great help. Sally arrived with 3 participants from Wrexham via Hereford station. Gradually people were shown to their rooms and familiarised with the centre. Girls may have felt a little left out as they were staying elsewhere and so they were taken in to tea first!
Tea at Llwyn Filly with over 80 people to feed was a remarkably happy affair with people discovering others who spoke their language, old friends, new friends, what groups they were in. The sunny evening meant people could eat outside and then relax on the field with their group leaders to bond as a group and play football,volleyball and chat. Most of the girls wanted to see their accommodation before long and some then returned to dance and chat at Llwyn Filly whilst others had a walk around Cadarn. Taking a couple of girls back to Cadarn allowed us to glimpse girls quite literally letting their hair down and running freely in the absence of men. It was fascinating to observe the hurried pulling up of headscarves when any vehicle drove along the narrow road – indeed priority seemed to be covering the head before taking any evasive action to avoid a car! For some this freedom was very welcome although many couldn’t quite believe that there were no nearby shops or even people!
Saturday morning and all the females were up and ready to leave before 8.30 for breakfast at Tregoyd. A flock of horses, being herded to await trekking later in the day, held up some cars – rush hour Powys! The male participants were having breakfast in Llwyn Filly and tired after chatting all night ! One young man returned to bed and was noted missing when his group leader checked through her team. Steve and I found him sound asleep, with only a small tuft of hair showing , oblivious to being the only person in the building! He’d been counted onto the bus but escaped!
We’d opted for all groups doing Climbing, Challenge course, Problem solving, Survivor skills, Zip wire, Archery and Raft building. Participants threw themselves with great enthusiasm into all the activities and although for some there was little to really physically challenge them compared with some of the things they had already been through, this time it was for enjoyment with friends, accompanied by music and chat! Some of the activities challenged limited English [ of course if you’ve not been here long you may not know that there is a shop called the Co op] and some amazed the instructors with seemingly instantaneous correct decisions about building a field shelter and moving a team around a course.
Several people faced their fears and were able to do a Zip Wire or climb. One person really wanted to challenge herself to cope without all her usual friends and seemed to manage well by making new friends. Adil joined us and chatted informally with participants about his understanding of how if you work hard and integrate you can achieve what you set out to do. Charlotte was able to observe and interact with the various groups – she’d learnt about global movement of people at university but here was the reality! Shaun, Margaret , Robert and Melrose mingled and checked all went well.
Survivor skills – superb shelter building and fire setting.
The kitchen coped well with feeding over 150 people in shifts and with the dietary needs of a disparate group and it was lovely to be able to sit out to eat in the lovely courtyard.
Saturday evening and Steve and Claire had liaised well with Steve building an enormous campfire and ensuring that the music system was available. Everyone sat around the fire and as chatting died down people sang and danced. Amy sang and played songs on her guitar and lent it others to do the same. Then the music system allowed for peoples own music to be played until after 11 when it really was time to sleep. I gather that some even managed to chat most of the night again. We need to find earplugs for welcome bags next year!
Sunday Morning And the horses were rounded up earlier so we made a surprisingly quick exit despite having to sort out luggage. Steve had arranged places for all the bags so we could put it onto the correct buses and the donated clothing pile had already shrunk as people found new sweatshirts or trainers. Breakfast seemed to be greatly appreciated on both sites.
The groups gathered somewhat sleepily for activities but many were energizsd by the thought of visiting the lake to build rafts. Some did however feel the need to sleep on the grass! The warm day encouraged full participation in raft building in the afternoon and many also went swimming! The arrival of Kirsty Williams AM at lunchtime was well timed and allowed a number of people to discuss issues with their or others education in an informal way and to see a career politician who is warm and friendly and very aware of their needs.
Melrose took participants from Wrexham to their train and said that they had so much to say about what they had been doing. We forgot to send them with their packed tea so she made the best of the vending machines offerings.
And after the activities petered out the challenge of uniting people with their sandwiches started! No one except the drivers seemed keen to leave but finally everyone was on their bus with their luggage and farewells were said. I ,for one was exhausted, but satisfied that everyone seemed to have had fun, to have made new friends, to have learned a few new skills and to have made a great impression upon the instructors, the fellow users of the centre and all who met them. Two instructors sought me out to say how much they had enjoyed the groups, that they had stretched them, enlightened them and would love to know more about the sanctuary movement and had learned at lot about the experience of seeking asylum. Some had agreed to find ways for people to continue activities in the cities.
Participants with Kirsty Williams, Teachers with Kirsty and many participants in the courtyard
Thanks and Comments
Thank you to Steve for accommodating all the lovely extras like the campfire and arranging the extra time to allow for the music and dancing which were so full of joy.
My mini bus started off with lots of singing as we left and Amir commented ‘where do they get their energy’, but by Crickhowell they were mainly fast asleep ! I’m sure most of them will spend the day in bed! Feeling sorry for those who have school.
Hi Ailsa Let me start by saying thank you so much for inviting me along this weekend, I enjoyed myself thoroughly and learnt so much. All the volunteers and staff were exceptionally welcoming and made me feel comfortable to ask questions about the weekend and the attendees. The young adults that I met were all so amazing, watching them climb and problem solve with so much enjoyment reminds you that even though they have been through so much it is still important to let children be children.
Hi Ailsa, Thank you to all your wonderful team and to the PGL staff ( I especially want to compliment Martin who did the raft building with us, I thought he was great with the kids).
I can’t put into words how much I enjoyed the weekend, still processing it now, but in particular watching the raft building ( Marks group were absolutely hilarious!) and the disco dancing was AMAZING!! could have watched them all night long ( wish I had some of their moves!) but really there were too many great moments to pick from. All the young people were also so thankful for the weekend when we dropped them off in Cardiff.
Abboud, thank you for leading the group with me, I didn’t get a chance to say that as it was such a rush to organise everyone and their bags when we were leaving. I couldn’t have done it without you. I’ve also had a social worker contact me already to say what a good time one of the young people had which was lovely.
See you soon , I’m sure
Hi Ailsa, yet again, I am overwhelmed by the enormous generosity, thoughtfulness & sheer hard work that all of you in HBTSR put into the Project Get Together weekend. Am still processing it all!
Truly wonderful weekend for so many reasons: I loved meeting such special people, leaders & participants, the accomodation was fantastic, and the impression it made on my group was enormous. I know it meant the world to them. I gave some a lift back to the city centre when we got back & it was obvious from the comments that they made that they truly appreciated the weekend & that it would be an outstanding & formative memory for them. I don’t think we should ever underestimate the value of these trips for those young people.
I will certainly pass on your thanks to Amy. What a star!! She was absolutely brilliant & am so glad she came. She thanked me ‘SO much’ for asking her! She is a Sanctuary convert…her heart is in it.
A massive thank you, particularly to you Ailsa,& Lawrence, for your vision, commitment & sheer skill ( it’s got to be said! ) at bringing such a complex project, again, to fruition.
I will speak to the participants from LHS asap and send you their feedback plus I will also formulate my thoughts into something more coherent for your official press release.
Massive thanks again…Sian X
Thank you for the food,the milk & the chocolate! Really appreciated.
the boys did indeed love it…K has already asked if he can be a volunteer for next year! We may have a new cohort of Sanctuary leaders in the making here….: )
Plus,on the Saturday night as we sat around the campfire Amy sang one of the songs she has written herself. It is called ‘One Sky’ & is about the fact that we all share one world & are one people .. it’s really good & she was teaching us the words…I thought ‘what a brilliant Sanctuary anthem!’. I floated the idea in her space & she said she would love to do a video recording of it for you if you liked, to use on the website. She is a very talented person & has a real heart for justice & compassion & I am so grateful she came.
I was so pleased with how X got on..I had some really good chats with her about films, poetry, God & the meaning of life! You have those kind of conversations when you are out in nature. I was so impressed she did the zip wire too. Hopefully I will be seeing her on Friday for a school of Sanctuary meeting and I will chat to her more.
One of my most overriding memories for me is of when we arrived in Cadarn. The girls were struck with awe & wonder at the scenery…mesmerised by the hills, the birds, the flowers & especially the horses. When they all galloped out in the morning I could sense they were incredibly touched by the experience.
We went for a walk down the leafy lane in the evening & they were videoing all the hedges as we walked along! Like it was some precious & rare sight that they needed to preserve on their phones as it would surely disappear soon!
I thought the accommodation worked very well indeed & I thought Llwyn Filly was a fantastic place for us all to meet in the evening. The field out the back is just perfect for them all to play in & it has a lovely feel to it & the camp fire & the live guitar music was the highlight for me. It brought everybody together in a very spiritual way.
Hope you are recovered too after the weekend..what a magnificent achievement. Always such a joy to spend time with such a lovely group of young people & adults. WELL DONE again!!!
Thank you so much, Ailsa.
FEEDBACK FROM PARTICIPANTS
What did you like best?
socialising with other people and making friends
How to make friends and activities I have done before I had the opportunity to do them.
Meeting new people
The activities rock climbing was my favourite
Climbing and zipline[ and Henna Tattoo ] Raft building, zip wire, laughing, thinking and ideas
I enjoyed the food
I enjoyed dancing in the evening time with all my friends
I enjoy the activities and meeting new people
I enjoyed the social life for the first time since I left my family. I also liked the activity specially swimming
Joint feedback for 7 Vietnamese – making friends with new people, getting to spend time with my community, having lot of fun and we enjoyed the activities
I enjoyed meeting new friends and having a new experience
I really enjoyed the raft building activity
I enjoyed everything about this weekend
I enjoyed being with a large group of people
I enjoyed meeting new people
I learnt a lot of activities, meeting new different people and making new friends, conquering our fears and been out of our comfort and try out difficult activities the environment was brilliant . Its relaxing and natural
Horses at Cadarn, meeting new people, Zipwire
I like all activities I did and met with other people . Also I made new friends, I really like what we did communication and help me learn about new skills and activities
I like when we met new people and how people be lovely to each other
I liked making friends and chilling with people from different places
Seeing the horses at Cadarn. I loved the archery because it focused my attention and I liked the
climbing, campfire and building the canu. Building tent was also something I liked.
The gathering of people of different racial backgrounds and meeting them and doing different fun activities. My favourite was raft building.
The activities it was nice to be exercising and to have my mind challenged, to engage in teamwork and meet with people from other cultures
Meeting new people/ making new friends x 22
Zip wire x 12
Raft building x 7
Swimming x 4
Did you learn anything new?
How to make a tent and campfire
No but I feel like I perfected the things I know how to do like communicating
I learnt everything new
I learnt everything
Yes I learnt a few new things
The word Tadpole, And how to put on a harness, and how to set a fire [ smiley face] How to make a camp/tent/fire/archery. People were friendly
How to make a fire
I learnt about different religions and a new language
Learnt about making a fire and a tent
We learnt about safety how to make a tent and campfire
Archery and raft building
Learn a lot about different cultures because of spending 2 whole days together
Expanded my knowledge of different cultures
I learnt about different people
New activities like zip wire and mountain climbing
Yes archery and how to climb
Yes I learned raft activities, communication, climbing, made new friends and challenge course
Yes I learnt challenge course
I learned lots of Arabic words
I learnt dance move from S and A
I was here last year so the activities were the same
Learnt how to make friends
How to meet new friends
Archery- aiming climbing. Too many things.
How to build a raft
Meeting new people and how to communicate with new people
Yep I learned how to build a canu
Setting a campfire and archery climbing too
How to create a fire
I learned how to do archery and how to overcome your fears and enjoy it! And to be independent.
Yes learning about other cultures especially Sudanese
Teamwork and it was so much fun and so friendly. I liked football, vampire and the disco
Made new friends, teamwork, working with people I had never met before.
Did you make any new friends?
Met some people from Cardiff and Dominican Republic
Yes and from different ethnicities
I made lots of friends
Yes I met some new girls – we’ve exchanged telephone numbers
Yes I met two friends from Cardiff
Lots of friends from new countries
Yes I made a new friend from my own cultural background from another city in Wales. There aren’t any other Syrian boys living in Newport
Yes of course I’ve exchanged social media details with new friends
Lots of new friends
Yes from last year and some new cultures
Yes. This is the first time I’ve been away without my family
Yes but I would like to make more friends
Yes or loads x 38
No x 2
Do you feel that you know more about other cultures and people?
Yes like the Vietnamese
Yes I learnt about people culture
Yes I do learn about different cultures when I spend time with them
Yes before I came I felt shy about different people but now I understand they are fun and friendly and we laughed a lot
Spending 48 hours with people from other countries has helped me understand more. We also saw different music from different countries
No because I study and live with many different cultures in Newport
Yes when I was dancing i saw other cultures
Yes I do because I met lot of people and I learned about their cultures
Soo much more
Yes Kurdish people.
Not really. I didn’t spend enough time with them
Yes or with positive comments x 33
No x 4
Did you feel welcomed and accepted?
Yes I felt shy at first and then I opened up
Yes everyone was smiling and happy and I was able to relax and forget everything
Yes the staff were very welcoming and respectful
Yes a fantastic welcome
i want to thank every team leader for being great and welcoming us
Definitely yes. It was great to have a prayer room and etc halal food so clearly specified. It showed consideration to us.
Yes a lot. All the people were very friendly
Yes by so many people
Yes x 40
No x 1
Any other comments?
None x 13
It could be better if people could be mixed so not alone with many speakers of the same language who don’t include you. I really appreciate the kindness and patience of the staff and volunteers for being so helpful and tolerant. Cheers
I will love to come again next year cause its fun and a change and food
Food was good. The leaders were kind and the staff members as well
So amazing- thank you so much. Can we come again please next year?
Thank you, next time I would like more time for dancing
Thank you for arranging this
We want to say thank you very much and we hope we can come back again. We wish you good health and luck and success for the future
Thank you to all who organised, paid for us and to all the PGL staff
All staff for games, food, guidance were excellent
Didn’t like the lack of windows in bedroom and spiders and was unclean under the beds
Thank you all of their staff leaders, `pgl staff and `national Lottery. You are help we so much
Thank you for all this lovely things[ heart] some challenges and activities aren’t suitable for non English speakers
Thank you to you and everyone who works here
Our leader A is my best friend!
Its nice, I enjoyed, made new friends. Thank you so much and see you again next year.
I didn’t like the spiders they made it hard to sleep . And the lack of bedroom windows. It was nice to be in the countryside.
Thanks for everyone who participated and even the the team leaders for being so nice
I hope I can experience it again hopefully
It was comfortable to be separate from the boys. We could relax more. It was a really good experience.
A suggestion that we mix the teams up so we get to know more people and we don’t spend etc whole time with the same people.
Food was nice
I want to come again next year
People were keeping us awake at night talking