‘My life has been very bad but today has been a high point. It will help me and my family cope with the bad times better’ . M from Syria confided whilst drawing a graph with lots of low points and a spike for today.
What was especially nice for HBTSR members who attended was that we were also able to spend time relaxing and chatting with our visitors because the school did all the work. Sunday 15th October dawned bright and sunny and Lynne, Philip, Lawrence and Ailsa arrived at around 10am as the Caretaker was finishing opening the buildings. We rapidly found John the Headmaster and looked through the generous donations of toiletries and a full set of rugby kit and boots made ready for people to take away
Lawrence and John and the school- You can see why everyone thought it was a private school! Not many schools have such impressive buildings, grounds and wall hangings.
Our base for the day was the dining hall and we put up our banners and a table with a petition asking for a review of the treatment of asylum seekers and information about the group. The business manager arrived with fruit and biscuits and said that anything that wasn’t eaten would be certain to be used in school the next day. Flasks and drinks were prepared so that people could have drinks, biscuits and fruit freely available all day. Fruit juices donated by one of our supporters who gives us the free one of two for one offers were put out and much enjoyed.
The bus made good time from Swansea arriving at around 11.20 and hugs and handshakes exchanged we walked to the dining hall for drinks and welcome. A buzz of excitement met the idea of Badminton especially as some of the ladies had been to coaching lessons in Swansea. Sighs of relief greeted the announcement about football and some just opted to chat. Lynne set up a creche in the hall with drawing paper and pencils and mothers rushed to see if their coaching had been worthwhile. Ieuan, the Head boy, said that there was a high standard of play and he had enjoyed the games. Another sports ambassador played football with a large number of men and boys and was watched by a number of people including Eugene who hadn’t expected to enjoy watching but did. As always the football was competitive and involved people aged from 10 to 60+. Comments from pupils showed how much they had absorbed from the experience -‘I never thought they would be so good at badminton” “I never knew they wrote from right to left” “It’s made me want to do something more and I am sure I can get my friends to help.” “Great guys, good footballers”.
At 1pm we walked over to the Hospitality suite where tables had been beautifully set for lunch complete with flowers! One or two people had picked roses in the school grounds and obviously appreciated the smell and brightness.Little O was delighted with his rose until he found conkers and he and friends picked a bagful to take home. Lunch was in 2 sittings and everything had been thought about. The ‘waitresses’ who were pupils had devised the pictorial menu and were pleased that a few people did speak English. The pupils had planned and cooked the food and with the help of their teachers were able to serve and feed over 70 guests. A delicious chickpea curry, a vegetable chilli, salad and jacket potatoes with a variety of fillings were much enjoyed and the desserts of apple crumble, custard , Ice cream and Eton mess vanished quickly. These students hope to submit the work as part of their GCSE coursework – I’m sure that they will gain high marks.
T with rose, tables awaiting custom, part of the ‘kitchen team’, crumbles ready and waiting,pupils enjoying some delicious food.
We had restricted our supporter’s attendance numbers as we had not wanted to inundate the school but various out of school activities had clashed impacting upon the people available in school. Gwernyfed against Brecon Junior rugby matches are unmissable for any child, sibling or parent and there were games at all age groups going on. Interestingly several older people who had heard about our group came and were inspired. One plans to arrange for a supply of pillow cases to allow our dream pillows to continue and wanted to help with arranging a return to Hay for a day out. The other has contributed cake many times before and will do so with renewed enthusiasm.
Some things to do whilst waiting for food, dance,selfies and tree climbing
Walking round the grounds, chatting, henna tattoos by Saba and L and resuming football occupied the rest of the time. Sue and Gez explored the grounds with a group who were amazed to see the stairs in the old hallway -“Some of the men noticed the Arabic writing at the bottom of the stairs and got very excited and started reading it and pointing out pictures and words to me. It made them feel at home “,explained Sue. Sue tried Arabic writing later on but with only limited success. Her Tutor was kind but firm. ‘Its not quite right but with practice you will be able to do it!’
Before leaving people wrote messages on post it notes for everyone to see what a good day had been had. ‘This is such a lovely place. I can feel quiet’. ‘ I have met people who I can talk to.’ ‘The gardens are so lovely. I miss the countryside so much’ a sample of the comments made during the day.
Henna tattoos and autumn collections.
Getting everyone onto the bus seemed more difficult than usual as everyone was so relaxed that they were inclined to stay where they were. Wayne had two headcounts before he realised his son was missing along with at least one other boy. When they were found still walking the grounds, there were also three men who had been praying who arrived too. People who had arrived quite apprehensively and still anxious about all the trials of living as an asylum seeker, with so many worries had shed these for the day. Everyone was smiling as they said goodbye to all their new friends and we know no one will forget the kindness that they experienced at Gwernyfed and many will feel the warmth of this day will help them through the difficult days ahead. Several ladies had heard this week that their applications for refuge had been rejected but for a few hours they were able to put aside their worries about the future and just enjoy the company of friends, old and new, and being looked after.
Some of the notes and some of the HBTSR supporters waiting to say goodbye.
Grateful thanks to Staff and Pupils of Gwernyfed school for such a warm welcome and wonderful food and for giving up a day off to be in class. Thanks To Sue and Lynne for liaison and support.
A sculpture in the grounds in memory of an ex pupil who was a keen traveller.
‘A very educational experience with Great food and very kind waitresses!’
‘love for all , hate for none,’
‘Thank you for your excellent hospitality – a good day!’
‘It was a really fun day- very welcoming and hospitality was great’
‘The day was beautiful and THANKS!’
‘The day was beautiful,everyone really enjoyed and all the services was great!’
‘I like the trip because I meet new people and I enjoy the food. Thanks very much everyone’.
‘I enjoy the day because it is very nice place. I love the food. It is very delicious. Thanks for everything.’
‘It was nice to come to your school. Thank you very much.’
‘Very good. Very Good.’
‘Thank you super people so much. Now day happy.’
‘I thought it was a lovely day and can be built on in future I’m sure – great to have that relationship with Gwernyfed and the students and teachers.’
‘It was a different sort of day but so enjoyable, I hope we can build on this with the school. Nice to meet old and new friends and the food was amazing made by very dedicated students.’
‘I felt respect and that’s important’.