“Just let us know what we can do to help” wrote Jackie from Criw Craggy, a group of volunteers at Craig Y Nos and followed up with an impressive list of help starting with opening gates and the pavilion and finishing with provision of outdoor games. In February, Rhian from Pontardawe [ Arts in The Tawe Valley group] wrote to say ‘we would love to get involved again this year in the picnic- name the date and we’ll be there!’ True to their words, Criw Craggy and the Tawe artists were with us and helped to make the day so welcoming and such fun for everyone.
As always the planning for the day started weeks beforehand, checking with Wayne and Maria that it was a suitable day, that they felt the venue would be ok and that people would want to come. The offers of help flooded in especially after encouragement from Sean for Ailsa to write a begging email asking for more help. The store at Ty Mawr was raided to supply mugs, the urn, plates,non perishable supplies, and various other bulky items that filled Melrose’s car.
From Friday, many people were busy at home making food to send or bring along to contribute to the picnic feast and Bill Gannon of the felafel stall in Hay kindly donated about 5kg of Hummus [ Yes really!!] and a similar amount of felafel mix that Ailsa spent 6 hours turning into felafel. Personally I have even more admiration for him now I know how hard it is!
Anxious reviews of the weather forecast throughout the week turned to anxiety as the weather broke and prayers were said for fair weather.
The prayers were answered when Sunday started with sun. [ I like to think having a retired priest as Chair helps!] Craig Y nos has its own weather system and Adeline Patti chose the spot for her home as she wanted dampness for her voice! In any event, we were grateful to have very little rain on Sunday.
Cars with supporters arrived at Craig y nos from 9 onwards bearing supplies, help and smiles. The Marquee on loan from the park seemed to be erected in minutes and the chairs moved from the pavilion to make way for tables, urns, food and people. Water was carried from the centre but thankfully the pavilion has electric which meant we could boil water and make flatbreads and charge phones!
Our new friend Alun of Bluebird coaches brought 52 people by 10.45 and then with the ‘help’ of Raz and Ailsa went to Ystradgynlais to bring as many Syrian families as wanted to come.Raz, who volunteers at Unity in Diversity since he had his refugee status confirmed earlier this year, kindly helped to interpret despite being hungry and a little travel sick!
The coach party walked round to the pavilion and had drinks, cakes and biscuits and a wander around the site, participated in the art activities, chatted or relaxed before returning for lunch. Offers of transport and wheelchairs were refused by the less able who said they would just make their way slowly and admire the views. D ran [ part of his training regime]and returned bathed in perspiration! Abdul arrived with Sean having come to spend the weekend in Hay from Newmarket where he is training as a jockey. He first joined us a year ago for the day and since has won a young achiever award from the Daily Mirror.
Lunch from 12.30 onwards was an enormous spread of food with a variety of dips,quiches, fish, feta,olives,salads, breads, couscous, rice, tabouleh, fruits and cakes. Despite having no running water within 400 yards, tea and coffee was freely available and we [ definitely the use of a royal we, here ] even managed to wash up the mugs many times.
Several walks were on offer after lunch and out door games such a badminton, quoits and even croquet tried to edge out the football – but failed!
Painting bags, colouring in and making a large clay sculpture and a mural were enjoyed by all ages. Sam made a den with a group of small children who had great fun hiding in the trees and playing together. O made friends with a few boys also aged 4 and they carried worms to new homes and enjoyed skimming stones with Philip.
The walking parties returned soon after 3 for more cake and drinks. Gez had taken people up a hill and safely down again and the party led by a Criw Craggy member mainly circled the toilets [ when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go and lots of children really needed to go]but chatted to loads of dogs and marvelled at the scenery and that Adelina Patti was as famous as Madonna is now.
The Ystradgynlais party left by 3.45 and Alun returned to take the Swansea party who eventually left by 4.30 after many goodbyes and even tears. We didn’t do take away bags on this occasion due to logistics but sent some food back for the Tuesday Drop in. We were all cheered by the news that Swansea City were saved from relegation by Hull losing to Crystal Palace. Phil shared with us that the new bishop of St Davids had promised to pray for Swansea and we felt sorry for the Bishop of Hull…..
When we planned the days we knew that most of our usual core of supporters would be available but it was lovely to have extended the group considerably with many others offering food,[ Barbara, Christina, Gaynor, Pauline,Julia, David, Becky] money [ Mike, Hilary, Jon and anonymous donations] and help on the day [ Melrose, Robert, Sarah, Chris, Margaret, Sue, Gez, Steve,Margaret, Maggie, Lawrence, Virginia, Brenda, Becky , Katy, Stanley, Penny, Julia, Sam, Janet, Emma, Tim, Jonnie, Carola, Inga, Hazel, Jim, David, Matthew,Sean, Jean,Laura, Des and anyone whose name doesn’t appear but who came anyway…] [ Sorry blame the incipient senility of this correspondent] . Thanks to Melrose for overall coordination of all the food offers and Sarah and Chris [ and Mum Margaret and Sue and Gez] for being the flat bread team who were hard at work in a dark part of the pavilion for hours producing the most wonderful flatbreads, To Steve for help in setting up the site [ Sean offered to bring him late morning but we knew we needed him from early on!] To Lawrence and Robert who mostly did as they were told! To everyone and anyone who helped-It was another wonderful day to remember for some time to come!
To Ailsa and all you wonderful people at HBTSR…..on behalf of us all from Swansea ( who still have a football club in the Premiership!) thank you for yet another amazing day filled with fabulous activities, chat, warmth , friendship, support and delicious food.
The weather was ‘kindish’ to us and a bus full of smiling, well fed people left around 4.30. This was with the exception of one little girl who had become very attached to one of the group and was in floods of tears! That prompted a promise of a visit to Swansea.
Once again,we are aware that none of this happens without an enormous amount of planning and organisation together with the generosity of the many who are ‘silent’ contributors. Thanks to Marvellous Melrose and the catering team ( the flat breads were fabulous) ,along with the ‘washer uperers ‘who did a fine job in challenging circumstances. Also to those who carried chairs, erected the gazebo, put up the badminton net,drew out the football pitch and brought a football. The day was made all the more special by the much appreciated presence of our regular artist, the Pontardawe artists who kindly gave of their time and skills, and the lovely ladies from the National Parks who led some walks and suggested further possible activities.
I am trying not to name names for fear of missing someone out, but it was wonderful to see so many of you who all contribute something different.
There was a great mix of familiar and new faces, all of whom benefited from the fresh air, beautiful countryside, lovingly made food and perhaps most importantly, from the warm welcome and offer of friendship. The word is going around Swansea…. people who have previously been isolated have heard of ‘the trips’ and this prompts them to come along to the drop ins too. All in all, it promotes better communication of the support we can offer to this group of people who are all far from home, and tell us so often of how stressed and lonely and isolated they feel.
N and C told us on the way back how they enjoyed the break from their dull routines to do something different, somewhere different. All our friends never fail to wonder at the kindness of the hosts and are touched by their interest and concern for them.
One lady R with her young son said she had not been out of her house, except for shopping, for a year. She had no idea that there were any support groups until last week when she happened to meet D who told her about them. She was overwhelmed. I saw a lady smile today who I had never seen smile before – it was the first trip she had been on.
A and G from Eritrea explained that all the trees in Eritrea are cut down for firewood – they loved the trees that surrounded us. Many mums had a bit of a break because their children were happily occupied .
As ever, these days also give us Swansea volunteers respite . In addition to enjoying everything our friends do, it also gives us an opportunity to network and spend some ‘quality’ time with people that we often do not have time to sit and chat with. As well as developing friendships, this also allows us to learn more about their circumstances and needs – this can then sometimes be followed up with specific support.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
From Maria and Phil
M, Bangladesh.“I am very happy to experience new people and the fresh air. I like to meet people who can accept
D, Eritrea.“ I like to learn about new cultures and historical areas in Wales”.
G Eritrea.“I enjoy the vacations because it helps to relieve my stress. I can practice my English in nice weather
and also with new people”.
A Eritrea.“I like picnics and gatherings, meeting people and visiting the countryside. For me, that’s the main
benefit of the trips”.
D, Syria.“Trips are relaxing and the kids can play. We can build stronger relationships with people. We also get fantastic cultural and educational experiences”.
N Oman.“It’s my first trip in Swansea. The children have already been on many trips with schools. We enjoy
trips to visit places in South Wales to learn about new places and enjoy the weather. A beach trip
From A Pakistan