For the third year in a row, on the 8th September 2019 Ysgol Trefonnen School hosted a Welcome day for people seeking Sanctuary. Each of the previous days has included Syrian families from Newtown and some from Ystradgynlais and so the idea of having a day specifically for Syrian families was conceived. With the help of Meg Lewis, the Syrian Vulnerable Person Relocation Project Officer for Powys County Council and the family support workers, Hamed, Fatima and Caroline, Syrian families living in Powys were alerted about the day out and transport was arranged to bring anyone who wanted to come. Hereford City of Sanctuary helped to discuss the day with families living in Hereford and sorted out transport. Some people opted to drive themselves and three families now living in Llandrindod were able to walk.
Barbra Gough, the Community Manager at Ysgol Trefonnen school, made contact at Easter asking about the possibility of hosting a day as she was being asked to do so by parents, teachers and governors. She had been told how much the school loved hosting such a day and how the local community were involved and welcoming. Initially we wondered if the refugee support group in Llandrindod would want to be involved in running this but they felt this was not their remit. So with the reassurance that they had no objection to us being involved and knowing that The Herb Garden Community Cafe would again do the catering we were on board to help Trefonnen to host another day out.
The day was initially cold but by the time families arrived at 11 the sun was out and the temperature rising! Sally, Pat , Dorienne, Amelia [ Pat’s granddaughter from London who came up for the day] and Lynne had been busy for several days, planning, buying, accepting donations, preparing and cooking at the cafe. Food was generously donated by Andrew at the Spar, Aldi and Van’s Good Food and The Herb Garden did the cooking. Barbra, Simon, Ailsa and Lawrence and many teachers and govenors and others were busy at the school sorting out hot drinks, biscuits, donations of Bric-a-brac and clothing, preparing for Tea with cakes, sandwiches and scones as well as setting out the tables and chairs and outdoor games. It was noteworthy that many children were involved in helping to set and run the day and certainly once the families arrived, children played together regardless of race, colour, creed or even where they lived.
Drinks and biscuits sorted and people rushed off to play football ,to the playground , to the games and to the beading area set up by Christine and Siggy. Christine had brought a very large selection of beads and people were able to make bracelets, necklaces, little people and dragon flies. Chalks were used to draw , to create hopscotch and another game involving shouting country names and running – the rules passed me by but those involved seemed to enjoy it! Face and arm painting was as always popular as was creating another banner for the day as a memento to display in the school.
The games , arm painting and can you overload a see saw?
Two PCSO’s from the local police station were present and many children wanted their photos taken with them and many were very keen to be involved in making fingerprint key rings or in wearing stickers. It was an opportunity to highlight that there is no tolerance for Hate Crime and how to report it if it arose. As previously, the visitors were delighted to see the police who were very helpful and friendly.
Lunch was a lively affair with over a 100 people sitting to eat at various times and with Margaret handing out plates starting a chorus of ‘the wheels on the bus’ it was also a fun queue. Initially the Syrians seemed slightly suspicious of the delicious Middle eastern dishes [ tabbouleh, A lentil dish and chickpea, walnuts and pomegranate stew] that the Herb Garden had made but maybe spurred on by seeing how much the locals were enjoying these they came back to try. A Syrian man who said he was a chef commented most favourably upon the cooking.
A display of Life saving by Simon from St John’s Ambulance was enjoyed by people but he said we’d taken most of his potential audience on a walk…. He was however very well occupied cutting sandwiches and cake and any other kitchen jobs allocated!
The walk to the lake was slow to get started but eventually Hamed, Fatima, Ailsa, Jane, David and Diane set off and realised we’d become like the pied piper as suddenly many people were following! For some the walk seemed too long but the sight of the water seemed to energise people and there was a dash to the pedalos. In our risk assessment and thinking about the day we’d not realised that boating on the lake in Llandrindod was an option. If we had, would we even have thought that it would be affordable or popular. It was both! The extremely obliging owner and assistants allowed almost everyone to have a go with frequent changes of buoyancy aids and passengers and ‘peddlers’. It was hard to return people to the school so we split up with half returning after a go and the others after all had enjoyed pedaling! We returned to find tea and cakes in full flow with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of sandwiches, scones and cake. People had sorted through the donations and anything that was left will help with Trefonnen’s ‘bags to school’ clothing exchange. A lady recalled being given a lovely soft toy for her baby last year by a boy who had sorted out his toys and she was pleased to show me the baby with it.
The three bus drivers were all helpful and very laid back about waiting until everyone had had tea and cakes and the contingent from Ystradgynlais opted to stay an extra hour to enjoy the beading. Eventually by 5 everyone had torn themselves away and the tidying up was in full force. Another wonderful day and lots of happy people.
Thanks to Barbra Gough and the staff , governors, pupils and families of Ysgol Trefonnen School for their warm welcome and hard work in ensuring the success of the day.
Thanks to the Herb Garden Community Cafe for all their hard work and delicious food.
Thanks to Andrew at the Spar, Aldi and Van’s Good Food for food donations.
Thanks to Christine and Siggy for Beading.
Thanks to Meg Lewis , Hamed and Fatima, And Hereford City of Sanctuary and Julia Cotton for their help in recruiting participants and sorting out transport
On behalf of the families, I would like to thank you for yesterday, it was a wonderful day. Thanks for the warm welcoming and the nice food, the cake , all the activities and the lake trip. Thanks for all the organizers and the volunteers. Hope to see you again. One of the families member said he would like to visit this place again.
The visit was extremely successful and it was great to meet up with everyone again on such a lovely day. I believe they all enjoyed themselves, had lots of fun and it was all due to our excellent team work.