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Asylum seekers and refugees welcomed to Ilkley for two fun days out

Asylum seeking families and refugees currently living in Bradford have recently enjoyed two activity days in Ilkley organised by local residents as part of the support group Wharfedale Refugee Response.

Felicity Tomblin and Sue Staton, in conjunction with Refugee Action in Bradford, organised the days out as part of an ongoing initiative to extend the hand of friendship to families from all around the world and facilitate entertaining excursions to Ilkley and the surrounding areas creating memorable experiences for the children and their families.

The first trip at the end of August was a packed day of outdoor fun at Nell Bank Centre, where a group of families (70 people) enjoyed den building, pond dipping, playing on the adventure playground and other activities to inspire learning and inquisitiveness, led by the dedicated team of Nell Bank staff and volunteers.

The second trip took place on the 1st October at Ilkley Grammar School where families from Nigeria, Sudan, El Salvador and Iran/Iranian Kurdistan were made welcome by IGS teachers, students and volunteers who all happily gave up their Saturday to offer their help to the 60 visitors from Bradford.

The families enjoyed Orienteering on Ilkley Moor led by Associate Assistant Headteacher for Community and PE teacher, Matthew Carr, and the school art rooms were used for workshop sessions with the families creating charcoal artwork led by artist Gill Gilroy, and paper plate mobile sculptures led by mobile artist Juliet Gutch, to celebrate artistically the integration of art, education and community engagement.

Some of the Iranian families wanted the political message of their mobile sculptures to reach a wider audience in order to educate others about current events in Iran, so a dedicated art installation has been created which is currently on display in the school to be shared with all students and visitors to the school.

Carly Purnell, Head of Ilkley Grammar School said:

“I’m delighted that IGS was able to provide a venue and that so many staff and students were able to support such a super event. It’s wonderful to hear that they have made such a difference to so many families and that our students were able to demonstrate so many of our school values, showing care and compassion and giving up their time to make a positive difference to others.”

Both days were a huge success with feedback including:

Father of 8 year old boy:

“My son could not sleep last night as he was so excited and I was excited too. There is no way that we could afford to come to such place on our own budget. I spend all our asylum support on travel to school. It’s so great that there are people who care about other and who make such opportunities possible for us. Thank you everyone who made this possible.”

13 year old girl:

“I have never been part of any group activity or even a day out since we arrived in the UK 6 months now. My mum is seriously depressed and never leaves the house, but she decided to come to please my little sister. I did not expect people to be so nice and kind to us. I joined in all the activities and I enjoyed everything we did together especially building the den together. I became a friend with a nice girl who is my age. My mum felt so relaxed and I saw her smiling most of the time. Thank you for creating this opportunity for people like us and thank you for inviting us to come on this trip”.

Organiser Felicity said:

“We love organising days out for the families supported by Refugee Action as we know the huge difference they make to the families who have been forced to flee from their own countries under often traumatic and harrowing conditions. Having being involved with Refugee Action now for 6 years, we welcome people to the town who without exception leave at the end of the day with a huge smile on their faces and a sense that they have felt welcomed by its residents.

“These days out represent a small respite where the parents don’t have to think about how to feed their children for a day and the children have had something fun to do, which is often a very rare occurrence.”

Felicity and Sue would like to issue special thanks to the Children Charities Circle Bradford who provided the funding for Nell Bank, Ilkley Food Bank and the Trustees of Ilkley Food Bank for their support, All Saints' C of E Primary School year 6s who carried out a 'Grow a Fiver' activity within the last half term of the last school year in aid of Refugee Action Bradford, and the staff and students at Ilkley Grammar School. They would also like to thank all volunteers who helped on both days.

For more information about the work of Wharfedale Refugee Response including an upcoming coat appeal and a Christmas gift appeal, please visit their Facebook page @wharfedalerefugeeresponse.

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