This summer, we've organised several special events and trips to try give refugees a brief respite from the challenges of daily life, and a chance to connect with others.
Our work with refugees and asylum seekers in Bristol has taught us that life can be very challenging for people who have recently arrived in this country. The struggle to make ends meet, to learn a new language, and to find their place and identity in a new environment mean it can be a difficult and lonely time.
That's why, alongside the work we do to provide befrienders for those who are isolated, we have also more recently sought to ease the burden a little by creating opportunities for refugees to take a break, to get out of the city, to connect with others and to have some fun. Our social events, get-togethers and days out aim to contribute towards a sense of wellbeing and connectedness, and we consider it a real privilege to now be able to organise these on a monthly basis.
At the start of the summer, our first day-trip went all the way to Thornbury (a full 20 minutes away!), where 70 of us experienced a warm welcome from the Mayor, Helen Harrison, and after a pleasant walk around the town, members of the local Baptist church put on a wonderful afternoon tea for refugees who have fled the terrible conflict in Syria.
Then in July, we partnered with Bristol City Council and Citizens UK to organise an Eid gathering for families who have arrived under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. Face painting, arabic music, tabbouleh salad and cake all helped to create a wonderful atmosphere and to make sure this important event in the Islamic calendar could be celebrated, even though many were far away from the family and loved ones they would normally be with at this time.
Later that month, 105 of us took a coach and several car-loads over to Ogmore beach in Wales (see top picture). It may not have been the glorious summer day we hoped for, but for many this was their first trip to the beach in years, and the fun and laughter as people swam and barbecued copious amounts of meat more than made up for it!
And just last weekend, we were able to take another bus full of people to Noah's Ark Zoo farm, to enjoy looking at the animals, to get lost in the giant maze, and to take shelter from the rain in the indoor play area!
Our hope is to expand and improve this programme of events in the coming weeks and months, so if you are interested in helping us do so, please get in touch.
We'd also like to thank Near Neighbours, whose Common Good funding has helped to cover some of the costs of these pilot events, and Brisdoc, who have also kindly contributed. Thank you!