Last Thursday, the 17th of August, HBTSR welcomed a group of ten youngsters to Llangors for a day of fresh air and fun. While unaccompanied minors seeking refuge in the UK do receive good basic support, these boys are currently housed in Newport where they have little opportunity to get out into countryside so their motivated and kindly social workers coordinated the visit with HBTSR and brought them up on a minibus for a change of scenery. Most of them had only arrived in this country in recent months, fleeing the civil war, persecution and desertification of their home nations: Sudan, South Sudan, Kurdistan, Eritrea and Sierra Leone to name a few.
On arrival they were understandably shy and a little unsure of themselves but it didn’t take long for them to relax and enjoy the good weather, the good food and especially the activities.This was no doubt helped by meeting 3 young Welsh boys/men , Cian, Niall and Arthur who joined us for the day. Meeting young people of similar ages and finding interests in common; football, Gaming, Snapchat and farming helped to break the ice.
Ailsa and Lawrence had arranged for the group to go to the Activity Centre above Llangors so shortly after arrival they walked through the village and up the hill to have a go on the extensive climbing walls. Many of the guests were from rural backgrounds so were interested in the crops and animals they saw as they walked. In no time at all, supervised by the centre’s attentive staff, they were scrambling up and across the walls, often turning to grin at those of us watching and clearly having the time of their lives. They came back to the Llangors village hall for a big lunch, including a barbecue of chicken, burgers and various vegetables, all of which was evidently much appreciated because it all soon disappeared.
Then it was time to go off again, this time down to Llangors Lake, where they went rowing, another activity many of them had never experienced before and that they hugely enjoyed. It is impossible to imagine what awful things were happening in these teenagers’ lives that forced them to flee so far, leaving everything – family, friends, future – behind but it is truly rewarding to see them relaxing and enjoying themselves, even if only for a few hours.
One of HBTSR’s regular contributions to those seeking asylum is money to top up their phones and on a day like this it was clear why this is so important: many of the youngsters were regularly sending pictures back home of the fun they’d been having. However, this was not possible for all of them, either because they come from remote villages where there is no internet or because the family themselves have no mobile devices. In one case a youngster who had heard that two family members had recently been shot dead was unable to contact his mother and talk to her about it because she had no signal, but as the day progressed even he relaxed and enjoyed the fun and food in the countryside.
At the end of the day when they piled into the minibus to head back to Newport, they all looked really happy, and one of the social workers later reported that they slept throughout the journey, all with smiles on their faces. The local young people mentioned how glad they were to have met them and were very appreciative that they were born and bought up in Wales….
Thanks to Val, Tim, Melrose Lawrence and Ailsa for food and support. To Llangorse hall for providing a base, to Izaak for loan of Barbecue, to Llangorse Rope and Riding centre for welcoming and supporting the group and to Robbie Davies of Lakeside for loan of boats. And of course to Newport Social Services specialist UASC team for facilitating the whole event and to their charges for their enthusiasm and making it a great day out for all.