There was another very successful trip to Penpont on 23rd April, coinciding with St. George’s Day and the weekend of Eid celebrations. For the local Ukrainian people this was a second opportunity as many had visited in the summer of 2022. For the 45 people coming by bus from Swansea, most had not even been on a trip out of Swansea before so the welcome, the activities and good food were a pleasant surprise.
So good to see Katy and Florence back welcoming visitors along with the ponies.
The weather was variable but as always everyone seemed to have had a great day. Despite showers, the ponies were well exercised with a constant queue of people waiting to ride or groom and some walks around the Maze and woodland were enjoyed. Meanwhile indoors, sewing patchwork shapes, face-painting and general art activities occupied many and in addition there were some clothes and toys to look through.
Hot drinks and squash were freely available and the food was much enjoyed.
Our photographer Michael and writer Val were busy throughout the day.
‘Thank you for everything. That trip was wonderful!’
This was one of many expressions of gratitude for a special day out in the Breconshire countryside. On Sunday 23 rd of April a group of around 100 people seeking sanctuary gathered at the splendid old Penpont estate on the River Usk for a day of fun, food and relaxation organised by HBTSR (Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees) volunteers. The weather turned out better than forecast which meant that people could enjoy exploring the beautiful gardens and woodlands and the convoluted Green Man Maze, or play football or go for pony rides. Indoors there were other activities including drawing, painting and quilt-making, while a volunteer painstakingly painted children’s faces. The visitors also very much enjoyed the constant supply of food and drink, with biscuits and fruit available during the morning, a generous hot lunch with accompanying salads and fresh pineapple and melon for afters, and tea and a wide range of home-made cakes in the afternoon. In different ways the team of local supporters made everyone feel welcome and cared for. Many of those seeking sanctuary who are based in Swansea live in very cramped accommodation while they wait in hope that their paperwork will eventually be processed. This means that the opportunity for them to get out into the countryside in many cases for the first time since their arrival in the UK, was quite special. A coach brought a group from Swansea who came from all across the world –including Latin America, Africa and the Middle East – and they were joined by a number of Ukrainians who live in the Brecon area and who very much value the opportunity provided by HBTSR Welcome Days to meet up with each other, speak Ukrainian together and share stories of their experiences.
Another benefit of these Welcome Days is that many of those
seeking sanctuary do not often get an opportunity to chat with
ordinary British people so these welcome days allow them to
practise their English, talking about the weather or the landscape or about their interests. The HBTSR volunteers and local supporters also enjoy these conversations, finding out about people’s lives, their frustrations at not being able to work (many are doctors, nurses and carers, for example, who would be more than happy to help ease the pressures on the NHS) and about their efforts to get involved locally.
An Albanian refugee is volunteering at a Red Cross shop, for
example, while two young men, originally from Afghanistan, are both very keen footballers and play for local teams in Swansea, although at Penpont they particularly enjoyed the very different experience of pony-riding. Other stories are less pleasant to hear – stories of people who have been separated from close family members for, in some cases, many years, or of the dangers that drove them to risk everything in the hope of a safer future – but being able to tell such a story in the knowledge that the listener is going to be understanding and sympathetic is another of the ways in which HBTSR volunteers can offer support. Welcome Days are happy occasions for all involved. When the visitors were leaving at the end of the day they were all smiling and laughing, looking much more cheerful than when they arrived, and the volunteers were happy too: an altogether very enjoyable day.
Thanks to Vina and Gavin for hosting the day out and for their hospitality , to Margaret for coordinating the offers of food and help, To Jackie for being the Kitchen Supremo, Melrose for all support,
Kate Thomas, Fiona Cloke, Katy and Florence Cherrington for Ponies and multiple walks with said ponies and riders.
Claire Elliott for superb face painting
Rhiannon for liaison with the local Ukrainian guests and their hosts.
Emily Hedges and her friend, Jenny, for facilitating a quilting session; they are now making baby quilts.
Plus, of course, numerous supporters and their family members; We are indebted to them for all their food contributions, hard work and enthusiasm.
To everyone, from hosts, volunteers and visitors just the biggest thanks for a super day out shared with friends.
Thanks from Swansea.
Hello, thank you so much for your organizing. It was great, we felt very good
Penpont, all went well and a lot of smiling, relaxed people left on the bus, waving and appreciative. The food was amazing as always but we mustn’t take it for granted. The quality of the food is enjoyed by all of us but especially those who do not have the means to eat nutritious and delicious food regularly.
The sewing was a big success as were the horse rides. It was good to catch up with many of the team.
I took the boxes of women’s toiletries back in the car with me. With George’s advice we agreed on distributing to those who we felt were especially short. Some of these are asylum seeking women who live further out and do not come to the drop in. I delivered most of them yesterday- it was good to meet others and they could put a face to a name. Please tell Val (?) that they were delighted with homemade jam.