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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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Public Services Board seeks views to improve local well-being

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CARMARTHENSHIRE’S Public Services Board (PSB) is seeking residents’ views to find out what matters to them and their local communities.

The PSB has developed its Well-being Objectives and draft actions to deliver them, based on feedback received on its Well-being Assessment. The results of a survey at that time gathered views and helped shape the PSB’s understanding of the economic, social, environmental, and cultural factors that impact the well-being of individuals and communities within Carmarthenshire.

Once again, residents are being asked to contribute to help public service partners develop Carmarthenshire’s Local Well-being Plan for 2023-28.

To help shape the future of well-being please visit: Current Consultations (gov.wales)

The survey closes on 25 January 2023.

Cllr Darren Price, Chair of the Carmarthenshire PSB and Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “To deliver what is important to our communities, we need to their feedback and input. This survey is an opportunity for our residents to tell us if we, as public services, are on the right track to help create a better future for our children’s generation, and the generations to follow, as we strive to reach this goal.” 

Andrew Cornish, Vice-Chair of the PSB andChief Executive Officer / Principal of Coleg Sir Gar and Coleg Ceredigion said: “Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our work so far. Our Well-being Assessment gives us a strong foundation on which to build our Well-being Plan and I would like to encourage everyone to take part in our involvement work for the preparation of the Plan.”

Carmarthenshire’s Public Services Board is a partnership of public and third sector organisations working together to improve well-being across the county and includes Carmarthenshire County Council, Hywel Dda University Health Board, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Natural Resources Wales and other organisations.

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Llanelli prepares for Sunday’s Remembrance Day parade

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LATER TODAY (Sunday, November 13) the town will honour those who have fallen in service over the decades.

A number of roads will be closed on the day, including Murray Street, Church Street and Vauxhall Road from its junction with the mini roundabout.

These will be shut for the parade between 8.30am and noon, however, pedestrian access for those wishing to reach individual properties in those streets will be maintained where possible throughout the duration of the closure.

Traffic will be diverted to Robinson Street, Arthur Street, Columbia Row, Anne Street, Bigyn Road, Stepney Place, Water Street, Thomas Street and Gelli Onn.

At 10am, police, organisations and others not marching in the parade will take up their respective positions in front of the cenotaph in the town hall grounds, while the civic party will assemble inside Llanelli Town Hall.

At 10.15am the parade leaves Drill Hall for the town hall with the mayor Cllr Philip Warlow proceeding to the Boer War Memorial where he will lay a wreath.

When the parade arrives at the town hall, the civic party will proceed to the cenotaph where the Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed Sara Edwards, will lay a wreath.

This will be followed by the chair of Carmarthenshire Council Cllr Rob Evans, laying a wreath on the Royal Welch War Memorial and then on the town’s cenotaph.

More wreaths will be laid by dignitaries and politicians and ex-servicemen and women A two-minute silence will then be observed at 11am.

Any service groups or individuals who wish to lay a wreath on Remembrance Sunday can contact Paul Wickers via email at llanlva2009@aol.com.

While community organisations are to contact Llanelli Town Council at enquiries@llanellitowncouncil.gov.uk.

Contact should be made by Monday, October 31 at the very latest to confirm arrangements as no additional wreaths will be able to be accommodated on the day.

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Community

Llanelli choir launches fundraising naked calendar

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MEMBERS of a Llanelli female choir have bared all to raise money for the town’s Ty Bryngwyn Hospice.  

Côr Curiad has created a cheeky fundraising calendar for 2023 – the second one they have done.

With around 50 members, photos were taken across Llanelli with strategically placed items to spare their blushes – all in the name of a good cause.

Llanelli photographer Graham Harries was behind the lens for the project.

The choir’s musical director Alex Esney, who is Miss December in the calendar said: “Local businesses sponsored the calendar and so many of the photos were taken at their premises.

“So for example we went to LTC Mobility Ltd and had scooters carefully positioned in front of us, it was a lot of fun.

“I also want to thank Ffwrnes Theatre for opening up especially for me to go and have my photo taken with the piano there.”

Alex said the aim is to raise as much as possible for the hospice, adding: “We did a calendar a few years ago but we now have more members so we thought it was time to do it all again.

“The ladies decided to ‘bare all’ to raise money for the hospice which provides such great care and support for families in their time of need, including two of our own.

“I think we pulled out all the stops this year, getting their clothes off at local businesses in and around Llanelli.”

One of the calendar photos (Images: Graham Harries Photography)
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