Refugees find sanctuary in Malham

This September the small community of Malhamdale in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales opened their homes to a group of refugee and asylum seeking women and children for a weekend of fun and friendship.

The group of refugee and asylum seeking women and children & their Malhamdale hosts.

The group of refugee and asylum seeking women and children & their Malhamdale hosts.

This was our second ‘hosting weekend’ which grew out of previous day visits made by women and children from the City of Sanctuary’s Maternity Stream to the Dale, organised as part of our ‘People and the DALES’ project. Participants enjoyed these visits so much that they often didn’t want to go home and asked if there might be the chance to stay for a weekend.

This year built on the huge success of our first hosting weekend in 2015. Seven families opened their homes to welcome 35 refugee and asylum seeking women and children to experience a weekend of Dales hospitality. Among the group was Olympic athlete Muna, who represented Sudan in Beijing as a long jumper – a lawyer, doctor, midwife and various other amazing women and children from countries including Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, Albania, South Africa and Bolivia.

Farms, raft building & bell-ringing!

The weekend began on Friday evening with a delicious meal at Airton Quaker Meeting House. On Saturday morning we visited Dykelands Farm in Airton where farmer Janet Bolland showed the group around her dairy herd. It was then up to Malham Tarn Field Centre for a picnic lunch and a session of raft building whilst our resident artist Katharine Holmes (also a host) made small portraits of people to take home. That evening entertainment included a ceilidh, singing, dancing and an impromptu demonstration of South Asian dancing.

A visit to Dykelands Farm in Airton.

A visit to Dykelands Farm in Airton.

On Sunday morning we were all invited to join the church service at St Michael’s where women talked about their experiences as asylum seekers . Some of the young people were even given the chance to turn their hand at bell ringing.

A weekend filled with hope

Mirander from Albania said of the weekend:

I’m an asylum seeker which makes me feel tired, and divorced from the world, but this weekend has filled me with hope. I am very happy because people I don’t know have opened their home and this makes me feel like I am at home. My host even made breakfast like my mum does.

Diako said:

I feel ecstatic. The weekend made me feel valued and important. We felt like we are back to life instead of just existing. We felt love around us and the important thing is we are one big family.

The hardest part of the weekend was saying goodbye. One host noticed that her young visitor was very upset to be leaving and everyone wanted to return again next year.

 I have been very moved by the way simple hospitality was viewed by the members of the group and the impact it had. We were warned that Tabitha had a bad stammer and that communication might be difficult. Amazingly she felt so comfortable with us she didn’t stammer at all and was really quite a chatterbox! As the weekend progressed she opened up and shared some of her story with us. It felt good to have gained her trust so readily.

The final comment comes from a host, and sums up why the hosting weekend is so important.

If only this project could be replicated in many more places we would live in a society where there is greater tolerance and understanding of asylum seekers and refugees.

Raft building at Malham Tarn.

Raft building at Malham Tarn.

The people involved

Our thanks go to the many people involved in making the weekend possible – in particularly to Rose McCarthy of City of Sanctuary Maternity Stream, Rev Michael Jackson and the congregation of St Michaels in Kirkby Malham for organising accommodation and providing meals, to Floe Shakespeare and Airton Quakers for a quiet space and great food, Jim Wright and Abby Forrest from Malham Tarn Field Centre for providing accommodation and activities, Janet Bolland for showing us around her farm, to all the hosts for taking our visitors into their homes and hearts and Richard Hargreaves for playing at the ceilidh. A big thanks also to the Morrisons Foundation for funding towards this and other similar initiatives.

To find out more about People & the Dales outreach project contact:

Judy Rogers judy.rogers@ydmt.org or Gail Smith gail.smith@ydmt.org on 015242 51002 www.ydmt.org 

City of Sanctuary Maternity Stream www.cityofsanctuary.org

Welcome to Malhamdale

Earlier this month the small community of Malhamdale, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, opened their homes for the second year running to a group of refugee and asylum seeking women and children, for a weekend of fun and friendship.

It was the latest event in an ongoing partnership between YDMT and the Leeds-based City of Sanctuary Maternity Stream – an organisation providing vital support to pregnant women and new mums who are seeking asylum.

35 women, children and toddlers living in Leeds came to the Dales. Amongst them were an Olympic athlete – Muna represented Sudan in Beijing as a long jumper – a lawyer, doctor, midwife and various other amazing women and children from a variety of countries including Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, Albania, South Africa and Bolivia.

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The group visited Dykelands Farm, constructed small rafts from natural materials found in the woods which they floated on Malham Tarn (each complete with a plastic duck captain!), enjoyed meals in the Quaker Meeting House, and a ceilidh party in the local village hall.

Malham hosts Linda and Kevin said they were “Very moved by the way simple hospitality was viewed by the members of the group and the impact it had. We were warned that our visitor had a bad stammer and that communication might be difficult. Amazingly she felt so comfortable with us she didn’t stammer at all and was really quite a chatterbox! As the weekend progressed she opened up and shared some of her story with us. It felt good to have gained her trust so readily. Afterwards she texted me saying she felt empty when she had arrived on Friday but that she left on Sunday full of good memories. If only this project could be replicated in many more places we would live in a society where there is greater tolerance and understanding of asylum seekers and refugees.”

Emily, a former detainee at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, said: “People and the DALES and the City of Sanctuary are my most unsung heroes for what you have done, not only for me but other women too. When we go out there in the Dales we transform and become different individuals than our real self because we forget about our problems and who we really are, just enjoy being around people who show us love and care.”

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This weekend could not have taken place without the hard work and support of many special people and organisations, including:

Rev Michael Jackson and the congregation of St Michael the Archangel Church in Kirkby Malham, Rose McCarthy of City of Sanctuary Maternity Stream, everyone at Airton Quaker Meeting House (especially Floe Shakespeare), Jim Wright and Abby Forrest from Malham Tarn Field Study Centre, Janet Bolland of Dykelands Farm in Airton, all the hosts who provided such a warm welcome, visitors and Richard Hargreaves and Eric who played at the ceilidh.

This event was part of YDMT’s ‘People and the DALES’ community outreach project which enables disadvantaged urban groups to take part in a wide range of fun, active and thought provoking activities in the Yorkshire Dales countryside. The aim is to provide people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to return independently and improve health and well-being. Since 2005 over 8,000 people have had life changing opportunities to get out and about in the Dales.

Thank you everyone!

Teaching skills on the hills

Take seven amazing women, one son, two YDMT members of staff and one Instructor, put them in a hut in Selside with maps and compasses and you have all the ingredients for a fantastic weekend of fun and learning!

Hill Skills training in the Yorkshire Dales

Hill Skills training in the Yorkshire Dales

People and the DALES ran another successful two days of Hill Skills training last weekend, when an all-female group from predominantly black and minority ethnic backgrounds came to the Yorkshire Dales to learn how to map read.

Fun & laughter!

Map reading madness! 

These women all work alongside disadvantaged community groups in Bradford and Leeds and have previously enjoyed visits to the Dales through our People and the DALES outreach project. The weekend was a chance for them to learn how to plan walks, navigate and understand the equipment needed to safely enjoy a day in the hills.

Map reading & navigation.

Everyone went away with a Mountain Training England qualification and lots of memories of a weekend filled with laughter and enjoyment – not to mention the skills and confidence to enjoy the countryside safely and independently in the future.

Building the confidence & skills to use maps to access and enjoy the countryside independently.

Building the confidence & skills to use maps to access and enjoy the countryside independently.

Festive Cheer in the Dales

One of the highlights of the YDMT calendar is our Christingle craft session which we organise through our award-winning education and outreach programme ‘People and the DALES’. On a snowy December day we joined a group of Christian women from Malhamdale and Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales at the Quaker Meeting House in Airton. We welcomed a group of asylum seeker women currently living in Leeds and Bradford and spent the day together, enjoying each others company and learning about each others faiths, whilst making the Christingles for the service at St Michael’s in Kirkby Malham that evening. IMG_4210 As the women arrived, the Dales were experiencing the first snow of winter which the children were enthralled with, jumping and playing in the white stuff. The group retreated to the warmth of the newly converted Quaker Meeting House Barn where soup was bubbling for lunch. Over 170 oranges were transformed into beautiful Christingles as women of different faiths, nationalities and ages chatted together. Somehow quite a few sweets didn’t make it onto their oranges, as young sticky fingers sneaked the dolly mixtures into their mouths!! IMG_4225 Once the crates were busting with decorated oranges they were transferred down to the church ready for the service. That night, as the candle burned, we were reminded of our visitors who struggle to make a home here in the UK and also of those in West Africa who are unable to celebrate Christmas amid the Ebola epidemic. IMG_4234 Our visitors came from a variety of backgrounds but had all been involved in the Maternity Stream of the City of Sanctuary. They are a group of volunteers who sought sanctuary and now work as Health Befrienders for the Refugee Council because they “don’t want other mums to suffer as they had”. The event was organised through the People and the DALES project which enables people who wouldn’t normally visit the countryside to get out into the Dales for fun, thought provoking activities. This is the third year that women in the Dales have welcomed visitors into our midst to make the Christingles. Each event has been full of warmth, happiness and fun. We have discovered that it doesn’t take much to welcome strangers into our midst and after spending time together part as friends.

You can read all about what the group thought of the day on their own blog here: http://www.cityofsanctuary.org/leeds/news

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Green Links continue between Bradford and the Dales

Green Links

In a small Quaker meeting house in Malhamdale, a group of Muslim women from Bradford and women from Malhamdale were, for the second year running, spending a day together having fun whilst making Christingles in preparation for the Christingle service the following day.

This is an initiative which has grown out of Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust’s outreach programme ‘People and the DALES’ which has impacted on the lives of over 4000 people since it began in 2009 thanks to funding from  Natural England’s Access to Nature programme (£197,000 was awarded as part of the Big Lottery Fund’s
Changing Spaces programme).

Making Christingles

Making Christingles

It may all seem a little incongruous, but it is just one of a number of creative activities that have taken place thanks to the enthusiasm and determination of a small group of women in Malhamdale and a similar group in Bradford who are keen to learn first-hand about the lives that each community lives.

Christingle-making introduces the women from Bradford to the traditions of Christmas in a rural, white community and in turn they explain the customs of their own religious celebrations. Last year this same group of women spent a day in Bradford, visiting an Asian bazaar and taking a tour of a local mosque, as well as attending a retreat weekend together in a bunk barn in the Yorkshire Dales.

Through the project friendships have developed between the members of the two communities and along the way there has been a lot of fun and laughter, none more so than whilst carol singing in the church in Kirkby Malham when a few Dales women confused friends from Bradford with a high descant rendition to ‘Hark the Herald’!

Festive fun!

Festive fun!

 

A dose of Dales air!

Words and pictures by Judy Rogers, our People and the DALES community worker: 

“Earlier this week I took a group of refugees and asylum seekers for a walk around Swinsty reservoir. Living in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales I rarely visit this neck of the woods, but have often wondered what the reservoirs that are dissected by the A59 are like as I drive to Harrogate. Last week my son and I did a recce of the walk around the reservoirs and were thrilled to see a few cormorants resting on some tree trunks. And this week with the group we were not disappointed as we saw yet more cormorants, Canada geese, crested grebe and a mob of mallards.

The group included ten young men from Leeds who were mostly asylum seekers supported by a project called PAFRAS. Each of them came from a different African country and each of them are waiting for their applications for refugee status to be reviewed and are hoping for the right to remain in this country. Whilst waiting they receive no benefits and so have to live with support from projects like PAFRAS, friends or churches. Days out offered through our People and the DALES project allows them to get away from the city and forget about their problems for just one day.

PAFRAS members enjoy a day out in the Dales

The walk took us over the dam between Fewston and Swinsty and up to the newly built Heritage Centre next to Fewston church. Here Cheri the church warden and Anne the Centre manager welcomed us into the church and provided us with tea, biscuits and chat. Thank you Cheri and Anne for making us feel so welcome.

We continued on our walk past Swinsty Hall remarking at the dam at the end of the lake and the huge pipes taking water to Leeds. The trees have been fantastic this time of year. Some say it is because we haven’t had the high winds which so often strip the leaves off trees in October. As we walked the men asked about wild animals and were saddened to hear we have no big game, although they were surprised to hear about the adder – our only deadly snake!”

Digging in the Dales

This is a blog from Judy, one of YDMT’s People and the DALES community workers, who has just returned from an archaeological dig in Ingleborough…

“I’ve only ever been on an archaeological dig once before as a student in Wales – excavating a Medieval rabbit warren – and my memories are of clearing snow, tents blowing down and a farmer with a shot gun!

This dig was a proper dig though with a dedicated team of amateur archaeologists working on a complex of medieval farm buildings in the Ingleborough area. I’d never realised the amount of organisation it takes to run an archaeological dig, from getting permission to dig, to recruiting diggers, erecting tents, and putting up a port-a-loo, and that’s before you even touch one blade of grass.

My involvement came about because I work with refugees getting them out and about in the Yorkshire Dales through our project People and the DALES. We found out that one of the refugees we had been working with in Blackburn had originally been an archaeologist back in Eritrea, in Africa, but had to leave everything and flee to the UK. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could get him involved in a dig in this country and rekindle his love of all things old?

Ingleborough dig - Basil, Tesfaab., Julien, and Tinta

Digging up Ingleborough! Basil, Tesfaab, Julien, and Tinta get stuck in

David Johnson of the Ingleborough Archaeology group was organising a dig, we asked if a few of the refugees based in Darwen could be involved, he agreed;  John Asher applied for funding from through the Sustainable Development Fund, the Quakers agreed to host the refuges for four nights and so that was that! For four days our friend Sam and four others (all from Africa) began digging their own trench on the slopes of Ingleborough and unearthed a doorway that is probably over 1,000 years old.

As expected rain stopped play one day so the guys spent the day visiting the Dales Countryside museum and frolicking around in Malham. But on the other days they worked like mad, digging, surveying, photographing and finally back filling.

Having worked in Africa himself David Johnson enjoyed their company almost as much as they did the dig : “They were good fun,” he said, “Good company, full of enthusiasm, with a strong desire to learn and benefit from the experience, and jolly good workers to boot. I hope they will be able to stay safely in Britain as I am certain they will seriously enrich our culture, like so many refugees of the past.”

I certainly agree with you there David. My time on the dig with Sam, Tesfaab, Tinta, Basil and Julien was certainly the highlight of my year even though my knees hurt afterwards!”