Top class welcome at Ysgol Trefonnen for sanctuary day

There was a lesson in community spirit when Ysgol Trefonnen Church in Wales School, Llandrindod welcomed more than 80 refugees and people seeking asylum for a sanctuary day.

The pupils had made a banner to welcome the visitors including 53 people seeking asylum or refuge in Swansea, and 32 people settled in Newtown as part of the Syrian Resettlement programme.

They were joined by many local people, including teachers, parents, governors, the Friends of Ysgol Trefonnen, members of the Knighton refugee support group, the Llandrindod Community Café, the Samaritans, St John Ambulance, community police officers and Unity in Diversity.

Vans Good Food Shop donated vegetables, the Candy Bar donated sweets, Tesco donated fruit, Aldi donated food, and Dudley Taylor Pharmacies donated toiletries.

They were joined by KDM local newsagents, stationers and games store, the Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers Support Group and the Newtown Community Connection, for the Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees-organised event.

Holy Trinity Messy Church provided crafts and activities while Powys Dance got people on their feet with several dance routines. Radnor Play donated play equipment which meant visitors could try juggling, quoits, or even massive dominos.

The children had been inspired to think about hosting a day by their teachers, especially headteacher Jessica Stuart-Lyon and community manager Ryan Coleman, along with governors Jo Harris and Dr Simone Lowthe-Thomas. Mrs Stuart-Lyon said she was very happy to have the opportunity to host the day.

HBTSR’s Ailsa Dunn said: “Several planning meetings were held and enthusiasm developed from there. Enormous amounts of clothing, toiletries, toys and food were donated by local people and businesses and were sorted by Samaritan shop volunteers.

The Herb Garden agreed to do the catering and prepared a feast of vegetable chilli, rice, potatoes and pasta bake with salad and bread. There were also sandwiches and cakes for afternoon tea, provided by local people.

It always amazes me how many people can be fed on these special days and it was a great to use the school kitchen. The presence of the school cook meant we were able to offer hot food to around two hundred people.”

A weeping beech tree was planted to commemorate the day and became the focus for many ‘selfies’ and group photos. One of the Syrian men said “The tree will grow and provide sanctuary as you have done for us today”.

Ailsa said: “This comment and one from a mother who said ‘they’re just like our kids really aren’t they’ tells us that we had achieved what we wanted. To do all this in a primary school in Powys which was echoing with shouts and laughter, chatter and tremendous warmth felt truly miraculous. We’d like to thank everyone involved.”

Community manager Ryan said he had been “overwhelmed by the support, warmth and wonderful reactions to the day by our visitors, local community and on Facebook – the events photos have been viewed by over 1000 people and shared and ‘liked’ by dozens”.

You can find out more about HBTSR, which has just been awarded charity status, and its away days, at http://hbtsr.org.uk/  or on its Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/1481176695519368/