On Sunday 19 November Hay-on-Wye Community Primary School welcomed around 100 people seeking sanctuary to a wonderfully relaxed day out. The school is working towards being recognised as a School of Sanctuary and head teacher Richard Morris, with a dedicated team of staff, parents and local businesses and supporters including the HBTSR group provided all sorts of entertainment and a constant supply of delicious food and drink.
The first to arrive was a minibus driven by Christina who brought some young men from Hereford and after tea and biscuits they were invited for guided walk around the town by Gez. They all took up the offer and went down to the river and along the now wooded path that used to be the old railway line. The rain held off and their pleasure at just being able to explore the surroundings and take photos of each other in front of the castle or on the bridge over the Wye (a spectacular torrent of muddy water following recent storms) was palpable. The walk circled round up past St Mary’s Church at which point some of the young men paused to go in and pray.
Meanwhile back at the school a coach load of men, women and children had arrived from Swansea and a number of Ukrainian families now living locally had called to join in as well. The families with young children immediately made good use of the play areas both inside and outside the school. Activities on offer for adults and older children included football and quilting, and entertainment was provided by the warm harmonies of the Hay Community Choir led by Rob Evans.
The visitors included people from many different countries including Morocco, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, El Salvador and Ukraine. The lives of people seeking asylum often have been so unimaginably hard and, understandably, they often are reluctant to talk about the horrors they have experienced. However, one young man from Sudan opened up and told how his parents and other close family members had been killed in the endless warfare when he was just three. His grandmother did her best to bring him up, along with his siblings, but the on-going fighting and political chaos meant that he had very little in the way of education nor, as he grew older, much chance of any sort of safe work. Earlier this year he fled through Libya, across to Italy and up through France to the UK. His siblings also escaped from Sudan and are now in different countries across the world, in some cases with no access to internet so he has little regular contact with any of his family. But in Hereford he is making good progress learning English, and was evidently pleased to be able to practice it with some of the Hay locals.
Seemingly endless supplies of hot food, salads and cake kept everyone happy throughout the day and all thanks to the team in the kitchen expertly led by Bernie with Lynne and Claire in support who also coordinated all arrangements for the day.
Thanks to the school head Richard Morris for making the school available, with its excellent kitchen facilities and play areas, to the Three Tuns pub and many local individuals for providing food. Also to Josh Boyd-Green, chair of the Chamber of Commerce, who encouraged local businesses to support the event, which many did. One of supportive local Businesses commented that ‘us marginalised and stigmatised groups need to stick together’! We are so glad that they did. And many thanks to the parents and staff for the gifts that children were able to take away with them.
Thanks from visitors
My children were very happy, it was a very nice day thank you very much،،I hope you always succeed, thank you for all the beautiful things”
It was so good thank you
We had a very good trip, thank you very much
Very nice, we are endlessly pleased
It’s very nise thank you 😊 👍
And many of the children had a great sing-a-long on the return trip.