‘Do I have to leave? Can i just look at the view one more time?’ K is always pleased to see us and never keen to leave. He arrived in Swansea only about 5 months ago as an ‘un-accompanied asylum seeking minor’ from a country where over 80 % of asylum applications in the UK are accepted. . He lives alone and is quite isolated. Whilst most people from Swansea only come on one trip a year, we have welcomed the fact that our coordinator in Swansea , Thanu , has arranged for these unaccompanied children to come more often.
On Sunday the Talgarth community joined with HBTSR to organise another wonderful welcome day for people seeking sanctuary. A coach brought about forty people up from Swansea, mostly from Sudan and from countries in Latin America. They were joined by a number of Syrian familes and their supporters from Llandrindod and also by some of the many Ukrainians currently living in Powys, so in total there were about 100 visitors.
The local community involvement was really impressive. The Gwernyfed Rugby Club hosted the event and, in conjunction with the Talgarth Football Club and the Bronllys Wellbeing Park, they organised a whole series of tremendously popular football matches between visitors and locals. Other games were arranged by Powys Sports Development and the Talgarth Bowling Club, and luckily the weather turned out to be much better than forecast so everyone had a really good time. And as usual on these welcome days, there was plenty of delicious food. Members of local groups including the Tuesday Lunch Club and Grow for Talgarth baked serious quantities of cake and prepared all sorts of beautiful salads, and the local shops in Talgarth also contributed very generously.
These Welcome Days are always an opportunity to share stories and experiences. Some of the stories of those seeking sanctuary are often barely comprehensible to those of us living peacefully in Powys, like the case of a woman who had been living in a country with no proper government at all, where corruption and gang warfare was endemic. She told me that when her son was only 10 years old someone had held a gun to his head and threatened to shoot him because he had crossed the road and so had strayed outside the local gang’s strict territorial boundaries. But sometimes there are good stories too. One young man said that for him and his friends these welcome days are a real joy, not just for the day itself but for a whole two weeks: for the week before, as the excitement and anticipation grows, and for the week afterwards, when they enjoy exchanging stories and reflecting on their happy day in the countryside.
Among those who had come along to find out more about the situation for those seeking asylum in the UK were Liberal Democrat county councillor William Powell and also the prospective Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire, David Chadwick, both of whom enjoyed talking to the volunteers as well as the visitors. The government may believe that everyone agrees with their cruel anti-immigration rhetoric but events like the Talgarth Welcome Day clearly prove that there are plenty of people around who, whatever their political persuasion, care deeply about others and will devote a great deal of time, energy, compassion and imagination to giving others less fortunate than themselves at least a glimmer of hope.