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‘Refugee Wales’, people like us

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Aberaid fundraiser: Hosted in Ceredigion Museum

Aberaid fundraiser: Hosted in Ceredigion Museum

THE REFUGEE WALES exhibition opened at Ceredigion Museum last Friday evening (Jul 8). The opening event included stories and songs from a number of local artists, including Sue Jones-Davies, story-teller Peter Stevenson, and, of course, Côr Gobaith. Issa Farfour, one of the refugees involved in the project, played the darabuka, a goblet shaped drum found mainly in the Middle East and North Africa. 

Food was provided by Medina, the Aberystwyth restaurant and take-away with a growing reputation for delicious and imaginative cuisine.

Refugee Wales was developed by Cardiff’s refugee and asylum seeker centre, Oasis. It launched at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff on June 2 and will be at Ceredigion Museum until August 28. It then moves on to Wrexham Library where it will be on display from September 7 until October 22.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Refugee Wales is the final stage of a two year project. It shares personal stories to raise awareness of the lives of people who are living in Wales as refugees or asylum seekers.

BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS 

Since the project began in December 2014, 25 participants have interviewed other refugees and asylum seekers, as well being involved in transcribing, producing text, photos and video. The project has involved both men and women living in Wales with refugee or asylum seeking status. Participants come from countries ranging from Eritrea to Syria and Sudan. The main aim of the exhibition is to get refugees’ stories heard while giving the participants new and useful skills. Oasis hope that he project will also further the cause of integration and solidarity.

Reynette Roberts, Director of Oasis Cardiff, said: “Many people in Wales have never met someone who is a refugee or asylum seeker. This touring exhibition is exciting because the stories are being shared in accessible public venues. If everyone can listen to these stories, it will help break down the barriers between refugee communities and the rest of Wales.”

The pop-up exhibition, designed with Cardiff-based firm Semaphore Display, includes audio clips, digital stories and hands-on activities, all of which give visitors an insight into what life is like for people seeking sanctuary.

Owain Rhys from National Museum Wales said: “This project has produced an invaluable archive about one of the most important stories of our time. It is so important to give a voice to people who would otherwise not be heard.”

HAPPY AND SAD STORIES 

The exhibition features a mixture of happy and sad stories.

Project coordinator Mari Lowe says: “Some of them have things from their pasts which haunt them. Some people have spent the last few months or even the last few years on a really horrific journey. But there’s so much going on that’s positive, too.”

Mari hopes that people who have negative views about refugees, asylum seekers and immigration will attend the exhibition, seeking more information. She hopes it will it change some people’s minds and make them respond differently towards refugees. “That’s the hope: if people come to the exhibition and then meet an asylum seeker, maybe they’ll think of the story he or she has.”

The exhibition presents some of the vital facts and figures about asylum seekers and refugees in Wales. For instance, it was not until 2001 that Wales became a ‘dispersal area’ for asylum seekers. At the end of October 2015, there were around 2,832 people living in dispersal accommodation in Wales. Refugee Wales combines this kind of, often poorly understood or misrepresented, information with the stories of real people.

Explaining why she can’t go home, one woman asylum seeker narrates: “I joined a certain group in Malawi. I was supporting lesbians and gays. In Malawi it was prohibited… When the Malawian government heard that I’m doing that, we were in threat.” This woman now lives in Wales with the fear that her asylum application will be refused. There are a number of equally moving but always diverse stories in the exhibition.

A panel from one contributor poses the question: “Can you imagine starting again from scratch?” The visitor is then asked which three things from home they would pack in a rucksack if that was all that it was possible to take. The impact of the exhibition depends on visitors engaging seriously with such questions. If they do so, Refugee Wales

is truly unsettling. One highlight of the exhibition is two prints by the artist Gideon Summerfield. These manage to portray at once the scale of the problem of displacement, the sheer number of people, and also the intimate plight of individual human-beings among the masses.

THE COLISEUM, A TRULY PUBLIC BUILDING 

Speaking after Friday night’s opening of Refugee Wales in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion Museum’s Assistant Curator, Alice Briggs, told the Herald: “Issa Farfour, who is now studying journalism at Cardiff University, was fantastic on the darabuka. It was really mesmerising to hear it in the Coliseum. One of the other volunteers from Oasis, Hussam Allaham, a former doctor, also told a bit of his story and how he ended up in Cardiff, which was also very powerful. I was particularly moved by him asking the audience to imagine that this building won’t be here tomorrow, and that most of the people in this room will not be here tomorrow, and that’s what it was like for him in Syria before he left.”

Working as a refugee support worker, Hussam Allaham is studying for his IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam so he can practice medicine again.

Over the last year, Ceredigion Museum has opened up its Coliseum building to two large fundraising evenings for refugees and has also served as a collection point for Rum Aid and Aberaid donations to go to refugees. The Coliseum is one of the oldest community buildings in Aberystwyth and has a great history of providing space for people’s campaigns.

During the First World War, for instance, a fundraiser was held to support refugees from Belgium. Over the last century, the Coliseum has also hosted a number of prominent speakers including Lloyd George and Emmeline Pankhurst. Museum staff are proud that the building is still being used for people to participate in dialogue about our communities, politics and society.

Alice Briggs concluded: “As a museum we feel our role is not be passive in our interpretation of history, but to question, and to use the knowledge of the past, of which we are guardians, to help institute change.”

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Llanelli fundraiser boycotts her bed for Action for Children

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A LLANELLI woman is boycotting her bed for 24 hours this month in order to raise funds for Action for Children, the charity that runs the Carmarthenshire REFLECT project, based in the town.  REFLECT offers support to women whose children are in foster care or have been adopted. 

Helen Antoniazzi felt that this year it was particularly important to raise money to help Action for Children mitigate the impact of the pandemic.  Over the course of 24 days, Helen has committed to giving up an hour of sleep and to swap it for some physical activity.  She is asking her supporters to support her in this by donating money.  Helen’s efforts will culminate on the 9th July which is the official #BoycottYourBed night, Action for Children’s flagship annual fundraising event. 

Speaking about why she decided to take on this fundraising challenge, Helen said:

“I’ve long supported the crucial work that Action for Children do to support children, young people and families, but this year it felt even more important than ever to do what I could to raise money.  That’s why I decided to give up an hour’s sleep a night for 24 days as part of Action for Children’s Boycott your Bed campaign.  For each of these hours I’ll be swapping my sleep for physical activity.

“Life was difficult for vulnerable children and their families before the pandemic. Now things are even harder. Action for Children’s frontline, key workers have kept 99% of services open throughout the pandemic, continuing to support vulnerable children, young people and families who were already in desperate need.

“The number of families relying on Universal Credit has doubled. Households with children are twice as likely to have suffered financial hardship – like falling behind on bills or borrowing to pay for basics – because of coronavirus. At the start of the pandemic, Action for Children launched a Coronavirus Emergency appeal which has provided essentials, like food and warm clothes, to around 20,000 children and young people. But more needs to be done. 4.3 million children in the UK are living in poverty. That’s 9 children in every school class of 30.”

Action for Children supported more than 27,000 children, young people, parents and carers in Wales last year with Nina Rice, the charity’s fundraising Regional Manager for Bristol, Bath and South Wales, adding: “Helen is showing tremendous commitment by swapping her bed for an hour’s exercise every day for 24 days.  It is great to see such passion for an event that will improve the lives of the children, young people and families we proudly support in our communities and that have been stretched to the limit during the pandemic.

“We love Helen’s unique take on Boycott your Bed, which is all about sleeping somewhere extraordinary on 9 July (Action for Children’s birthday) whilst raising awareness and funds for our charity.  I hope she inspires others to do something equally challenging as we approach the big night as this is a remote event, where anyone can take part, wherever they are based. Helen will join everyone and come together virtually on the night, to enjoy an evening of virtual entertainment.”

Anyone wishing to support Helen in her bid to raise money can donate at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/helen-antoniazzi

 If you want to spend the night in the most unusual place you can think of while enjoying a star-studded evening of virtual entertainment you can register here: https://boycottyourbed.actionforchildren.org.uk/community-registration/

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NHS Wales announce first and second dose vaccination walk-in clinics

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Hywel Dda UHB is running walk-in vaccination clinics this week. There is no need to contact the health board to book an appointment and if you have already registered using the health board’s online form, you are still welcome to attend the walk-in clinic.

If you have a scheduled appointment, please keep your appointment time. 

With the rise in cases across the UK it is important that as many people come forward for their first and second vaccines.

First vaccine walk-in clinics for anyone aged 18 and over who hasn’t had their first COVID-19 vaccine yet:

  • Aberystwyth (Thomas Parry Library, SY23 3FL): Thursday 24 and Friday 25 June, 10am to 8pm.
  • Cardigan (Teifi Leisure Centre SA43 1HG): Friday 25 June, 9.30am to 5pm.
  • Carmarthen (Halliwell Conference Centre, UWTSD, SA31 3EP): Monday 21, Tuesday 22, Wednesday 23, Thursday 24 and Friday 25 June, 10am to 8pm. 
  • Llanelli (Ffwrnes Theatre SA15 3YE): Thursday 24 and Friday 25 June, 10am to 8pm. 
  • Tenby (Tenby Leisure Centre, SA70 8EJ): Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 June, 10am to 8pm

Second vaccine walk-in clinics (please only attend if the centre is giving the same vaccine that you had for your first dose. This information can be found on your vaccine card.)

  • Aberystwyth (Thomas Parry Library, SY23 3FL): Monday 21, Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 June, 10am to 8pm. Second dose Moderna vaccine only if you had your first dose on or before 11 April.
  • Llanelli (Ffwrnes Theatre SA15 3YE): Monday 21, Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 June, 10am to 8pm. Second dose Moderna vaccine only if you had your first dose on or before 11 April.
  • Tenby (Tenby Leisure Centre, SA70 8EJ): Friday 25 June, 10am to 8pm. Second dose Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine only if you had your first dose on or before 25 April.

If you are unable to attend a walk-in clinic, you can still request your first vaccine by completing this form

To request your second dose please use this request form.

If you or someone you know is unable to use an online form, please contact our booking team on 0300 303 8322.

Important: By travelling to a centre, you accept there is a risk that all vaccines will be allocated before you arrive. If you arrive after all the vaccines are allocated, we will take your contact details and add you to our reserve list.

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Chairman Announces her chosen charities for her year in office

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CHAIRMAN, Cllr Tegwen Devichand has chosen the following four charities to support during her term of office.

Alzheimer’s Society is a care and research charity within the UK for people with dementia and their carers. They provide information and support, fund research and create lasting change for people affected by dementia.

Links Llanelli is a unique Llanelli Mental Health Charity, providing support and learning opportunities to those within our community who have or are experiencing mental ill-health. 

Links aims to support people experiencing mental health issues to build confidence, self-esteem and skills.

Links also provides support for veterans and blue light teams living in Carmarthenshire. Veterans are able to access all the activities available at Links. Additionally, for those who live in rural areas or are socially isolated, can be provided with befriending buddy telephone calls and outreach NAAFI mornings which are held in various locations throughout Carmarthenshire on a monthly basis.

Ty Bryngwyn Llanelli Hospice is a Designated Centre of Excellence providing specialist palliative care for the community of Carmarthenshire. It is the only Hospice in the area with inpatient facilities.

Llanelli Hospice provides specialist palliative care both in the community and in its seven inpatient beds.

Wales Air Ambulance is an all Wales charity providing emergency air cover 365 days a year for those who face life-threatening illness or injury. The Dafen airbase, which covers South Wales, is one of four airbases in Wales and this coverage means that an air ambulance is  only 20 minutes away. 

Chairman, Cllr Tegwen Devichand said, “As a Council we like to financially assist worthwhile causes and I am delighted to be supporting such worthy charities. I believe that these charities touch us all in one way or another. I will be as supportive as I possibly can be under the current difficult times when charities need that ‘little bit extra’ financial support. The people in the area are always very generous in their support of such worthy causes. I was chairman in 2012 and I have been a councillor both on County and Community level for over 17 years and know how important lending our support can be.”

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