A TEAM of five Ilkley and Burley-in-Wharfedale residents who have joined forces to arrange day trips in the area for refugee and asylum seeking families living in Bradford are gearing up to host their next event in Ilkley later this month.

Working together with the support group, Refugee Action, this will be the sixth event that the group has organised this year alone. The trips have involved a day at Ben Rhydding Scout Hut with art and craft activities and outdoor games in September, a day of outdoor fun at Nell Bank in August and a treasure hunt and visit to see the bluebells in Middleton Woods in May.

The group consisting of Felicity Tomblin, Rosalind Beeson, Sarah O’Mahony, Sue Staton and Sarah Bruce, which also incorporates the Wharfedale Refugee Response action group, set about organising the trips with their friends and generous volunteers to provide an opportunity for refugee families to have much needed breaks, make new friends, experience new parts of the country and to feel a sense of welcome from local people.

Money was raised initially to fund one trip in 2016, but thanks to the generosity of the local community, funds raised have far exceeded expectation and to date, ten trips and events have been organised since last year, with over 250 refugee parents and children enjoying the beauty and friendship of the area.

As well as their volunteers, the group has involved schools, churches, small companies and large organisations. Primary schools have raised money and invited Refugee Action into school to talk about what it’s like to be a refugee in the UK, churches have offered venues, funds, warmth and hospitality and the train company Northern has paid for all train fares for the families from Bradford. In addition, Tesco’s in Ilkley has donated food and other resources.

Not only do the trips provide a break and breathing room for refugee families under stress, they have provided a great opportunity for local residents and refugees to come together to share stories, experiences and fun. The group has welcomed families from all over the world, including Sudan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Congo, Burma, Pakistan, Nigeria, Morocco, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Iran.

Christy Bischoff from Refugee Action said: “Going through the asylum system is a very stressful time. People who have fled their own countries looking for safety then have to go through the asylum process in this country, which may take months or years. People often comment about feeling very isolated and alone as they never get the opportunity to experience anything outside Bradford or meet new people. These trips give them breathing space, a chance to make good friends, experience the beauty of the countryside, but above all to feel welcome.”

The trip in October will be held at the Quaker Meeting House in Ilkley and will involve making mobile sculptures with local artists, Juliet and Jamie Gutch.

Due to the success of the trips and the friendships that have been made, the team has vowed to continue their activities into 2018 and beyond.

For more details of the group’s activities as well as other initiatives including the popular “Advent Appeal”, follow the Wharfedale Refugee Response Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/wharfedalerefugeeresponse/. To donate to the group, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/BradfordActionforRefugees