And we could all be forgiven for thinking that Saturday 11 August would be a wonderfully warm Summer afternoon, after the heat-wave the UK had been experiencing in the previous weeks.
However, CAFOD supporters from the parishes of St Michael’s in St David’s and Holy Cross in Fishguard woke up to lashing rain and high winds off the coast of Pembrokeshire on the morning of their walk of solidarity to raise awareness of the plight of refugees and migrants in the run up to UN talks and new compacts due to be agreed in September and December this year.
A band of intrepid walkers, led by Naomi and Esther, set off from the towering cliffs which sandwich the small, rocky cove of Caerfai Bay situated about one mile south of the beautiful and popular city of St David’s. It’s the smallest city in the UK and earns its status as a city from the magnificent cathedral of St David’s which was built in the twelfth century on the banks of the River Alun.
The scheduled walk along the coastal path from Caerfai Bay, buffeted by driving rain and strong winds, to the isolated, spiritual retreat of St. Non’s.
A truly wonderful place.
In a windswept field off the Pembroke coastal path we were able to see the ruins of St Non’s ancient chapel. St Non was the mother of St David. There is a small shrine dedicated to her in the corner of the field. A covered well is also there which would have been essential to the local community back in the sixth century. Everything is beautifully tended and cared for.
Sisters of Mercy run the St Non’s retreat centre and they gave us all a warm welcome and treated us to a lovely hot cuppa and a selection of very welcome biscuits. Close by is a tiny chapel built in the 1930s. It’s door is always open and it boast ancient relics that have been rescued from neighbouring cowsheds!
This part of south-west Wales created the Welcome Fishguard Community Sponsorship Group which was one of first towns to respond to a UK scheme first announced in July 2016 by then Home Affairs Minister, Amber Rudd and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The scheme adopted a new approach to refugee resettlement in the UK which aims to prevent refugee families from feeling isolated and struggling to adapt to their new surroundings which can lead to higher rates of unemployment, stress, depression and other problems.
Under this new UK Community Sponsorship program, local groups agree to sponsor refugee families and help them integrate into life in the UK. They help their new families find housing, access medical and social services, arrange English language tuition, and support them with employment, leading to self-sufficiency.
Community sponsorship enables local people to take responsibility for resettling a refugee family, supporting and empowering them to rebuild their lives.
In Wales, there are thirteen community groups already sponsoring families. Under the umbrella of Hiraeth Hope, Fishguard residents have worked with others in Haverfordwest and Narbeth to sponsor Syrian families. Groups have also formed in Cardiff, Aberystwyth and Cardigan.
Hiraeth Hope was set up in 2015 to connect groups in towns across Wales who wanted to sponsor refugee families under the community settlement programme.
A note on their website says that being inclusive and generous is part of Welsh culture: “the Welsh language word for “Welsh” is “Cymro” which means “one of us.” These towns are living up to the heritage of inclusiveness.
We are lobbying the UK government to put human dignity at the centre of the new UN agreements on Refugees and Migration. A united, global response from world leaders is needed to reflect the following:
- Respect human dignity
- Protect the vulnerable
- Support host countries
- Keep families together
- Tackle the reasons for migration
It’s not too late to organise a card signing in your parish. You can sign our petition to the UK government. We are hoping that more of you will organise a simple walk around your church grounds to show your solidarity with people who are forced to flee their home through war, persecution, poverty or climate change. Debunk the myths with our factsheet.
Lastly, thank you to everyone who braved the elements to #ShareJourney