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.
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.”
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!