During the Summer many of the friends in our community organised their own trips to the seaside, local parks and in some cases to visit family in other countries. As the original Syrian families who came to Colchester under the Vulnerable Persons Scheme become more familiar with this country, and our town, we are getting more clients from other countries. These are likely to be asylum-seekers and people with no recourse to public funds who are escaping intolerable situations.
Thus there is still a need to organise events and outings to promote community and introduce our friends to our locality and culture. This Summer during the the school holiday we had two outings to the private swimming pool in the garden of some local farmers. Their kind offer of the use of their pool meant that we could have a strictly female session and introduce mothers and their children (boys and girls) to the joys of swimming, and in some cases this was for the very first time. Clare invited families to join her at her beach hut in Mersea but unfortunately this was on one of the few very wet days of the Summer and had to be cancelled. Some of us then joined in the activities at First site and went to The Natural History Museum at the end of the High Street instead. Tim also organised another Forest School to which we invited some of the established and some of the new families who enjoyed meeting one another. It was heart-warming to hear Ahmed say to a new boy, ‘Come on, I’ll be your friend’. Even when there isn’t a Forest School High Woods is wonderful for den-making and its imaginative play area.
One particularly enjoyable outing was Alison and Michelle taking the Sudanese family, for whom they are the befrienders, to the seaside at Walton. Richard and I were pleased to be invited along and we all travelled by train from Colchester Town station. The children, who live on an estate in Colchester loved seeing cows and tractors in the fields from the train and the joy of Walton is the closeness of the station to the steps down to the beach and the vast expanses of sand when the tide is out. The children loved both the sand and the sea and were satisfyingly tired by the end of the day, one falling asleep on the train. Clacton and Frinton stations are further away from the beach although a Chinese mum (a Uighur) took her four children to Clacton on the bus. In this time of climate emergency we are very lucky to still have a bus and train service that usually works. If you have anywhere that you have introduced a family to which you can recommend, please let us know.