April may not be the best month for a trip to Weston beach in terms of the weather, but when you've not left the city all winter, even the half hour coach journey through the countryside, past fields full of lambs and blossoming trees can be refreshing for the soul.
So when we took 115 refugees and volunteers for a picnic on the cold beach, it was a joy to watch them still making the most of it, playing football and learning rounders and sharing home-cooked food in little huddles on the sand.
Thankfully though, a local church - Clarence Park Baptist Church - had offered to give us a base to use for the afternoon, so when everyone had had enough of the cold we were warmly welcomed into the church to enjoy hot drinks and copious amounts of home made cakes that the congregation had lovingly made for us. What a treat, and what a wonderful, welcoming bunch of volunteers they were! The kids enjoyed the toys and games in the back rooms, whilst the adults chatted away, catching up with old friends and making new friends.
In everything we do as a charity, we are always trying to connect people of different cultures and faiths who might not otherwise have a chance to meet. After the event, Steve, Pastor of the church, said:
"The event itself gave our team a chance just to sit and talk, to see that the kids play like all kids, and to hear some of the stories of those we spoke to. It meant that people groups who might not normally talk did talk, and so that in itself breaks down barriers on both sides as it focusses on humanity and not colour, religion or anything else. To be taught about culture is one thing...to meet people and so to experience something of that culture is another. The trip is a reminder to us, that whilst many may find life hard, compared to others we have so much to be thankful for, and helping others is always part of remembering to say thank you."
Many thanks to Clarence Park Baptist Church, Near Neighbours Common Good Fund and Brisdoc for making this trip possible.