Firework Fun for Leominster Asylum Seekers
The redundant Talbot Hotel in the centre of Leominster was selected as a place to house families of asylum seekers. Initially there was a group of almost seventy men, women and children from eight different countries. When the first families began to arrive, the local community quickly sprang into action. LASS (Leominster Asylum Seeker Support) was set up. Members from Churches Together in Leominster took a lead, but there was a great response from many other concerned locals. Clothing, shoes, toys and school uniforms were quickly collected. English lessons and walks, to familiarise the asylum seekers with Leominster town, were organised, and some volunteering opportunities were established. It was heartening to see contacts and friendships beginning to develop with people who had been through some terrible traumas.
When part of The Talbot was deemed unsafe, all the residents were moved out at very short notice and dispersed to locations across the country. The children who were settling in local schools, the friendships that were being established, the trust that had been shared were all gone in a moment. LASS were told that repairs to the building would be carried out and other families would be arriving, but there was no possibility that those who had been housed in Leominster would be able to return to the town. This news was greeted with dismay and letters were written to the local M.P. and the Minister for Immigration at the Home Office. Now that the repair work at the hotel has been completed, it is heartening to discover that some of the families have been allowed to return and there has been joy in seeing familiar faces again, along with new.
Families arrived back in Leominster at the start of the recent half-term holiday, so LASS organised some activities for them to enjoy. Green Lane Methodist Church was the venue for a meet and greet event with games and crafts for the children and lots of fun and mess. On Friday afternoon as the light was fading, all families were invited back to the Methodist Church for bonfire fun. It was heartening to see thirteen children and over twenty adults arrive from The Talbot along with a similar number of supporters from the Leominster community. Both children and adults had fun learning the autumn game of 'conkering'. There was an assortment of activities and games in the hall. Bonfire food, (soup, bread, pumpkin pie and lots of cake,) was served, after which everyone gathered around the fire-pit in the church garden for 'quiet' fireworks (avoiding loud bangs which alarm children who have been traumatised thorough warfare,) and children squealed with joy as sparklers were lit in the chill night air.
According to The Home Office, the asylum seekers will be housed in Leominster until the end of February 2024. Until then, LASS will continue to offer help and support. Leominster Methodist Church will be used by the families to cook meals, to meet and chat, play table games and knit. It is hoped that the church will host another party event in the run-up to Christmas.
Revd. Paul Arnold