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Local community warmly welcomes asylum seekers and refugees


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


Felicity Tomblin and Sue Staton organised the days out as part of an ongoing initiative conceived in 2017 to extend the hand of friendship to vulnerable families from all around the world fleeing war and persecution, and to create memorable experiences in Ilkley and surrounding areas for the children and their families.


In conjunction with Refugee Action in Bradford, and working closely with Nell Bank and Ilkley Grammar School, they welcomed families from amongst other countries Albania, Algeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan and Palestine to Ilkley in August and October.


The first trip in August was a day of outdoor fun at Nell Bank Centre, where a group of families (68 people) enjoyed pond dipping, a nature trail, playing on the adventure playground, searching for mini beasts and teamwork challenges, led by the team of Nell Bank staff and volunteers.


The second trip took place on the 7th October at Ilkley Grammar School where 60 visitors enjoyed orienteering on Ilkley Moor and creating artwork in two art workshop sessions; drawing and painting and mobile paper plate sculptures. A dedicated art installation consisting of the artwork produced on the day is currently on display in the school.


The school kindly offered their facilities for the visit and its staff gave up their Saturday to help out on the day. On both trips, volunteers from the local community prepared a delicious lunch and provided clothing and food donations for the guests to take home with them.


Carly Purnell, Headteacher of Ilkley Grammar School said: “I’m delighted that IGS was once again able to provide a venue to the visiting families and that so many staff and students were able to support such a heart-warming event. It’s wonderful to see our students demonstrating so many of our school values, showing care and compassion and giving up their time to make a positive difference to others. Well done to our teachers Mr Carr and Ms Clift for leading the orienteering and art sessions, and all the staff who provided support on the day, as well as food donations in advance.”


Both these visits, as well as the other events planned for the rest of the year and beyond, have been made possible by local fundraising and donations. This includes a generous contribution from Ilkley Arts following its successful ‘Secret Postcard Auction’ in May this year which featured a selection of postcard-sized art purchased by bidders at a secret auction at the Ilkley Arts Studio in Castle Yard.


The trips were a huge success with feedback from the families via Refugee Action including:


“We really appreciate your efforts towards us all. Thank you very much. The children really enjoyed themselves, thank you Nell Bank staff and the volunteers. God bless you all.'


“Thanks very much, today was one of the best days ever for me and my family thank you for everything.”

“My wife hasn’t been able to leave the hotel or do any fun activity for the last three months, so thank you!”


“Aishat and her mum were overjoyed. Aishat was shouting with joy on our way back.”


Organiser Felicity Tomblin said: “Both Sue Staton and I are passionate about organising these days out for the families supported by Refugee Action as we know the huge difference they make. Each family has been forced to flee from their own countries often under traumatic and harrowing conditions and it’s so important to show them love, friendship and compassion and above all to make them feel welcome. These are all people like you and me and not just a statistic in a news report! Having been involved with Refugee Action now for 7 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 new friends.


“On the trip to IGS, we welcomed a family from Iraqi Kurdistan who had been separated by a bomb blast in Ukraine where they had been granted refugee status. The mother and daughter had lain under rubble for several days and the father and sons had found themselves on a train to Poland. They were finally reunited in Bradford two days before our day out and expressed their joy at being able to walk on Ilkley Moor together in peace.”


Felicity and Sue would like to issue special thanks to the Children Charities Circle Bradford who provided the funding for Nell Bank, Ilkley Arts, the team at Nell Bank, All Saints' C of E Primary School pupils who carried out a 'Grow a Tenner' activity in aid of Refugee Action Bradford, and the staff and students at Ilkley Grammar School. They would also like to thank the many volunteers who helped on both days, without whom the trips would not be possible.


For more information about the work of Wharfedale Refugee Response, please visit their Facebook page facebook.com/wharfedalerefugeeresponse.

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