It began with an awareness talk to a small group of villagers in Billesdon, a lovely Leicestershire village. Villagers wanted to help refugees and were interested in the welfare of 1,100 plus asylum seekers in Leicester. So they organised an outing for families with children to visit the village, enjoy a tour of the local fire station, a nature walk and games on the village green followed by high tea.
The family outing to meet people in Billesdon village on Saturday 2nd July was a resounding success. The fire station visit was a highlight for many. We were shown all the interesting and complicated equipment for dealing with fires, road traffic accidents and other health emergencies. Everyone had the chance to climb the fire engine and wear a helmet. We all had a go at holding a fire hose and spraying water so that we could feel its force. The more intrepid visitors also felt their way into a “smoke filled” room and rescued a big soft toy. The fire officers were welcoming and informative and paid extra attention to the children.
The nature walk was especially beautiful. We passed lovely village cottage gardens on the way out through woodland, wild flower meadows and around a lake hidden behind tall reeds and grasses.
Afterwards we had juice on the green and the children loved playing rounders while mums rested.
The afternoon tea was generous and delicious. The mums were so pleased that the group was interested in them and their experience of welcome meant a lot to them. Each child was given a goody bag to take home.
Overall it was a wonderful trip and an experience of true welcome. Hope and resilience were renewed. It was extremely well organised, and both visitors and villagers had an enjoyable afternoon. Some comments included:
“I liked the smoke room best”
“I enjoyed the games”
“I liked the food and sitting around talking”
“They were very kind”
The older children plan to write a letter of thanks and the mums are organising a joint thank you card. It was a lovely example of connecting people and providing welcome, in the true spirit of City of Sanctuary and we think this is the beginning of a great partnership and friendships. Very many thanks to Father Felix Smith, Assistant Curate – Coplow Benefice, Diocese of Leicester and all the villagers who were involved in the planning, fundraising, sandwich and cake making, biscuit baking and for their lovely company. They gave everyone involved some happiness through connection and enjoyment.