Refugee Respite Weekend at The Pales 15 July 2017
Planning for the refugee day began early in the year. We were keen to share the wonderful site of the Pales, but there was a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. Were our facilities adequate? From where would the refugees come? How would they get there? If by bus, would child seats be needed? What would they want to eat? How would we entertain the children? And what would we do if it rained? Then it turned out that the chosen day – July 15 – clashed with the monthly meeting of the Pales Peace choir. How would we resolve all these problems?
But through much help, skilfully coordinated by Jeff Beatty, from the Community, Voluntary and Faith sector support for refugees and asylum seekers (Herefordshire), and the experienced support of the Hay Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees (for their report of the day see hbtsr.org.uk), all the difficulties were overcome. It was agreed to invite the Syrian families and three young Eritreans who were settled in Hereford – a decision which delighted the Hereford Quaker group involved with these refugees, which had been hoping to arrange an occasion for them to get together.
And so, on Saturday morning cars began to arrive at the quarry carpark, neatly parked to allow plenty of space for the buses arriving from 10.30. Together, our 55 visitors from 13 families, the helpers from many Quaker meetings, and the Peace choir totalled around 100 people, but there was plenty of room. Donations had allowed the visitors to choose and buy food to cook, and there was soon busy activity as fires were kindled and a wide range of enticing dishes set out, offered to all, while the children played and explored, or were occupied withquieter activities in the marquee. It was a day of friendship, laughter, sharing – and song, for in the afternoon the peace choir (which had spent the morning practising) joined the groups in the camping field. Their songs were in several languages, including the Arabic As-Salaam alaykum (Peace be with you), which was greatly appreciated, and many joined in. We were lucky to have an Arabic speaker among us, who could translate our visitors’ expressions of thanks. We learned how they especially valued this opportunity to come together and the feeling of community that such an event fostered. It was a most memorable and moving day for everyone involved. We are grateful to the very many people who made it possible.
And the weather? A fine morning for all to enjoy the views; the few drops of rain in the later afternoon failed to dampen the euphoria as our visitors packed up and were given gift bags to take home. Once again, the versatility of the Pales for events of all kinds was demonstrated.