It wasn’t just the sunshine which ensured a warm welcome for refugee families to mid Wales on Sunday, at the latest away day organised by the Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees.
Hundreds of people from across the area turned out at Llangors village hall, baked cakes and donated everything from food to toiletries to make it a day to remember for the visitors, who are now living in Swansea.
The hall had been decorated with welcome posters designed by Cubs from the Llyn Safaddan pack, led by Maureen Lowe and Steve Buzza, and cards written by pupils from Llangors Church in Wales school.
The day included a walk to Llangors lake, a visit to a visit to the local climbing centre and activities ranging from jewellery-making, dancing, knitting and spinning to clay-modelling, making dream pillows, colouring and henna painting.
Ball games were a particular favourite, especially with two teenage Syrian boys who had arrived with a rugby ball. “We’re at school in Wales so we need to learn to play rugby. We want to be Welsh one day,” one said.
A HBSTR spokesperson said: “It is a great example of a community pulling together with various churches as well to welcome people who need reassurance that they are welcome and that our lives are richer for knowing them.
“While this was a great effort from Llangors community and Cubs and the school there were also people from all over the area who came with cakes and stews and salads or to do activities or just to chat.”
Among the visitors were:
- N, who has two children under five and escaped an abusive husband in the Middle East – so would be risking stoning if she returned – said she normally goes to bed at 6pm with the children as she lives in a single room with a shared kitchen. She has little money and can’t take them out much as she can’t carry both and both want to run. And so a day out like this allows her freedom and for the children to have fun and gives her some adult company.
- S aged 21, who has heard that her case has been refused and has to move out from the accommodation she shares with her mother and siblings, said this was a day she’s looked forward to – to see friends here and to give something back – she did henna painting on hands. She said being treated as a friend and welcomed meant a lot.
- R who has refugee status hopes to be employed as a maths lecturer. He enjoys the days seeing another part of Wales and learning about our culture. He has previously spoken about the poor standard of accommodation that many people seeking asylum live in and how long it takes to have things rectified.
“I’d love to thank Aldi, Morrisons Brecon and Love at First Bake for their help and generosity. Also all the very many local people who contributed in so many ways and, last but not least, our visitors who made the day so enjoyable with their limitless enthusiasm. It’s a lesson for us all after all they have been through and are going through,” the spokesperson added.