Another wonderful ,relaxing and yet exhilarating day out in Hay for over 120 people from the local area and 48 people from Swansea. This was again expertly hosted by Headteacher Lex and staff Lou, Menna and Sarah, a large number of pupils and parents and people from the locality. It is wonderful that so many were happy to come to their place of work or study on a day off in order to share some of what makes Hay so special. Claire and Chris Armstrong kindly coordinated the HBTSR input and again Bernie and Lynne took the lead in the catering department once they had been given helpful advice from Sarah who also came in on her day off and in addition had made some delicious tray bakes.
At around 9 we started setting up at the school although for many it had started days before as they garnered support, gathered donations, made food or collected items to be used in activities or practiced singing. In Swansea for many the day started well before 9 as they made their way to the bus station to set off for a day out. Thanu, Gayan and Abeil had collected names and checked people onto the bus with help from Maria Phil and Antje who then drove up separately. Back in Hay anticipation mounted until 11.30 when the bus arrived expertly driven by Stuart and people were welcomed and plied with with fruit, bread, jam, biscuits and hot drinks or squash. After a brief welcome address by Margaret people settled to chatting,renewing friendships, sewing, completing jigsaws, colouring or lantern making whilst others headed out upon a walk led by Gez and Sue.
The Haka and exploring the well.
The walking party encountered the national border – some claimed never to have been in England before -and a Haka was performed to the bemusement of passing cars with the chant of England BOO, Wales hooray and lots of laughter. After crossing a muddy field we were rewarded by seeing the Black Lion Well . A stroll through the streets stopping for the obligatory selfies and photos as well as noting some were walking whilst streaming footage to friends elsewhere gradually took us back to the school and Lunch.
Lunch was a feast of delicious vegetable stews, curries, chilli and salads as well as a lovely warming soup which kept everyone occupied along with chatting until the choirs arrived to sing. Both the Hay Community Choir led by Fiona and the school choir sang beautifully and gave everyone great enjoyment.
Meanwhile back at the lantern making and the sewing there were some fantastic creations taking place. H made at least 4 brooches [ I’m the proud owner of one of these] and wondered if this might be something she could do at home to add to the outfits she designs. a young man sat with his friend and made a bag complete with a frill. He sewed this very well and obviously enjoyed chatting to Emily and her colleagues whilst he made this. They planned to meet again and we hope that he can find a sewing group to join in Swansea.
After the singing came cakes and hot drinks and more chatting. All too soon it was time to leave and as people set off for Swansea, many hands made light work of returning our haven for the day back to a school and library.
A few chats that stuck with me – a newly arrived family who just want their children to be able to start school that we were able to help by giving money for bus passes and some books, a man who is finding it easier to sleep since his nightmares started to fade after previous days out when he realised there was support and help for him, a lady who is benefitting from a bus pass given by HBTSR which allows her to access college as well as attending to help at drop in support groups and spotting friendships renewed between people and new hobbies being picked up.
Maria and Phil had a car packed with donations including toiletries, books, bags, clothing, blankets, cake and other foodstuff. And we had some vegetable stews to freeze for future events!
Thanks to Hay County Primary School Ysgol Y Gelli, Head Lex Bartholomew, staff members Menna, Sarah and Lou and pupils and parents for their warm welcome and help.
Bernie, Zoe [ coffee machine and curry] Faith Barcroft for donation towards food, Keiran at greengrocers, Josh from chamber of commerce, Alex Gooch Bread, The Old Electric Shop for soup , Three Tuns for vegetable stew, Derek the deli for food donations and Hay Festival for donations of children’s books.
to Aine and Catherine and friends for lantern making.
To Fiona and her Choir and the school Choir for their lovely singing that made everyone feel so welcomed.
To the welcoming desk team of Philip, Sally, Melrose, Margaret ,Pat and Adil.
To the Catering team Sarah, Bernie, Katherine, Claire, Chris, Melrose, Lynne, Naiya, Fiona, Adil and many others.
to Gez and Sue for the wonderful walk in ‘brilliant sunshine’
THANKS FROM MARIA
A grey, damp, misty morning – Sunday 26 January 2020. At 10am a coach with 45 men women and children from all over the world , left Swansea for a respite day hosted by Hay Primary School, in collaboration with Hay Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees. Some had been on a trip before and were looking forward to meeting friends, confident of a warm welcome and a relaxing day. Many others did not really know where they were going but ‘trusted’ they were being taken somewhere they would enjoy.
As we entered Hay, it reminded me of the first ever Respite Day hosted at Hay Castle, probably 5 years ago. How many people, I wondered, have benefitted from these wonderful days in that time. How many have experienced the welcome, warmth and hospitality in their darkest days when they have felt like strangers, isolated and many miles from family and friends in a sometimes hostile world?
Today our friends from Eritrea, Sudan, Iran, Russia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Somalia, Chad, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka were warmly welcomed at the new, very attractive primary school by the Headteacher and staff( who had very generously given up a precious Sunday) as well as numerous supporters of HBTSR, and locals.
We were led on an entertaining and informative walk by Gez, who someone told me could make a ‘walk on an industrial site fun’. The library was a perfect venue for arts and crafts, including lantern making and a sewing table. Those on the sewing table thoroughly enjoyed making bags and brooches. I was particularly touched observing one man who has been struggling recently, who looked more content than I had ever seen him, deftly and expertly sewing as his mother had taught him. He was absorbed in the task, whilst also chatting with another man and being encouraged by the group of women who had arranged the activity.
The food as always, was plentiful, nutritious and delicious. Welcome drinks, fruit, bread eggs and cake on arrival, a substantial lunch and more drinks and incredible cakes before leaving.
We were entertained by a fabulous and friendly adult choir, followed by the children’s choir singing about friendship, which brought a lump in the throat, and a tear to the eye of many. So many people chatting with our friends with interest and affection.
One young man told a volunteer that he had really enjoyed the day, that he had felt safe and happy among such kind people. Most days he worries about the whereabouts of his young wife and four children whom he ‘lost’ on the journey here and does not know where they are. Families relax together and friendships are formed, sometimes for a day, some that last weeks, months or even years.
On behalf of all of us who attended today, I would like to thank each and every person who made any contribution towards the day. It is acknowledged and appreciated how much preparation, planning and work there is on the day. These events always appear to be seamless, yet that is because of the enormous efforts of so many people. I hope that each person knows how much difference these days make to the lives of our asylum seeking and refugee friends. It is difficult for them to express their appreciation and gratitude fully, and they always ask me to do this on their behalf.
I would like to thank Headteacher Lex and her team, Bernie and Sarah and their team, who worked non stop throughout the day, to those who prepared crafts and sewing, to the choirs, the walk guide, the welcome party, and all the fantastic people who generously gave of their time , skills and money.
A car FULL of donations went back to Swansea. All these kind donations will be distributed among the large community of asylum seekers and refugees during this week. All donations are much needed and make a difference to lives. Some donations add a bit of luxury, some are essentials – when living on around £36 a week, both are needed. Thank you.
Apologies and thanks to anyone I have left out.
We look forward to next time…..
The real hardship are in the stories I hear every week and especially during those trips like the one today, and I am so grateful, committed people like you make a day like today possible. Today allowed me to sit and talk for longer with different people which is so helpful. Some stories floored me, like the young man who does not know where his wife and four small children are, they are somewhere on the road in Libya, shocking …… And yet, after his eyes filled with tears and a few sad moments, he smiled and said: Today is a good day, these lovely people here in Hay being so kind. And for this I want to thank you and all the volunteers in your area so so much.
See you Soon Antje