City of Sanctuary Visit to Malhamdale
Fellowship and Fun in Malhamdale
The hand of friendship was extended in Malhamdale at the beginning of September when a group of many nationalities enjoying a weekend of fellowship and fun in the Dale. This was the occasion of a second weekend away for a group of refugees and asylum seekers from Leeds organised by Airton Quakers, St. Michael the Archangel Church Kirkby Malham, and Malham Tarn Field Studies Centre working with ‘People and the DALES’, the outreach project run by local charity Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.
The visitors were mothers and children from the Maternity Stream of City of Sanctuary. City of Sanctuary is a charity committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome for asylum seekers and refugees seeking sanctuary in this country through a network of local groups such as the one in Malhamdale. Its Maternity Stream supports asylum seeking and refugee women through pregnancy. One visitor said at the end of the weekend: ‘It 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’.
Some visitors were hosted by families in the Dale and the rest stayed at the Malham Tarn Field Studies Centre who kindly offered free accommodation and helped provide activities. Saturday morning was taken up with a farm visit at Dykelands Farm, courtesy of Paul and Janet Bolland, and after a packed lunch there were activities at the Field Centre including raft buildingin the rain! In the evening everyone came together for a shared meal with food, music and entertainment reflecting the different countries of those there. On the Sunday everyone gathered at St. Michael’s for the morning service with the visitors actively participating in the service and sharing something of their stories.
Another visitor wrote: ‘I’m an asylum seeker which makes me feel tired, and divorced from the world, but this weekend has filled me with hope’. The Reverend Michael Jackson, Vicar of St. Michael’s, commented: ‘All of us in the Dale felt enriched by the sharing of stories, inspired at the courage in adversity shown by so many of our visitors, and heartened by the innate goodness and compassion of so many people involved in this weekend. It also reinforced my view that bringing people together in fellowship at community level is one of the greatest ways to dispel barriers and mistrust in society’.
City of Sanctuary Visit 2016 Extracts from Evaluation Forms
Which aspects of the weekend were most enjoyable and why
Being with Strangers who welcomed us wholeheartedly. Enjoying people’s company.
Seeing everyone so happy, seeing how much it meant to everyone. Sharing of lives and cultures. Also people making an effort to learn about the struggles of others.
When we been to the farm. When we hosted by Katherine – just felt at home.
Party in hall because it was a ‘family gathering’.
Staying with the family and chatting because they are lovely people and the party because we enjoyed all together.
I most enjoyed the party because it showed how welcoming the community is.
The most enjoyable aspect of the weekend was the family we stayed with. They played with the children outside and were very kind and lovely. All the people were very kind and lovely and I enjoyed being with them with their big smiles and warm welcome. The party was lovely – we enjoyed it with everyone. Lots of other things.
All the homes that hosted us were spectacular. The games were fantastic, the food marvellous, welcome superb and going to church was restoring.
Please tell us something about how taking part in this weekend has made you feel
It was such a good experience for all of us. We met new friends, we’ve been to beautiful places and we enjoyed our weekend so much.
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. Dorothy makes breakfast like my mum did.
Very happy thank you to all of you for having us.
Very welcomed and appreciated by hosts.
The weekend made me feel very happy. My kids enjoyed it. It was very lovely and I feel very relaxed- everything became calm.
This has always been like a dream holiday. I hope it continues every year. Please!!
Thank you SOO much, you have put so many smiles on our faces.
May God Bless you and yours. Are all what the community need. Well done. God bless.
Ecstatic. It 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.
Feedback from Hosts
The weekend has made me feel that I can do something relevant myself and meaningful, that I can learn so much about life through the experiences of our visitors.
This weekend helps to give meaning to life. It shows what is truly important and as hosts we get so much out of it.
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.