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Refugees enjoy art in the Dales

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Article from Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust

Mums, pregnant women, babies and toddlers displaced from their homelands and now living in Leeds enjoyed a family day out in Malham with local charity Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT).

This eclectic group of refugees and asylum seekers from countries including Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Russia and Nigeria have been brought together through the National Childbirth Trust’s (NCT) Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond Group based at Choto Moni Children’s Centre in Leeds.

The group enjoyed a gentle stroll to Malham Cove, shared a picnic lunch and played nature-based games before returning to the village to visit local artist Katharine Holmes to see her exhibition of paintings inspired by the Yorkshire Dales landscape, which were on display as part of the North Yorkshire Open Studios trail. The day was finished off with tea and cakes in Katharine’s garden.

Rose McCarthy, NCT Antenatal Teacher, said: “I have been delighted to see both the mums and children flourish in Malham. They leave their troubles behind, play with their children, compare life in the English countryside with life back home and smile. It gives them hope that life can be better, and is fantastic for their mental health. In the wave of anti-immigration that is flooding the nation it was really touching to see local people from Malham waving as we went by, and to be invited into Katharine’s home for afternoon tea was simply delightful. It restored my faith in humanity.”

Katharine Holmes added: “I enjoy meeting people from different places and backgrounds, it really enriches life. The visit to my home today by refugee mothers, babies and toddlers was a real pleasure. I hope that the families have as happy memories of the visit as I do and in a very small way it helps carry them forward in the new lives they are making here.”

The event was organised by YDMT as part of their pioneering outreach project ‘People and the DALES’, thanks to a recent grant of £1000 from the Sovereign Health Care Charitable Trust which was given to YDMT to enable refugees and asylum seekers to access and enjoy the Yorkshire Dales countryside.

Gail Smith, Community Worker at YDMT, said: “I’d like to say a big thank you to Katharine Holmes for welcoming us into her home, and to the Sovereign Health Care Charitable Trust for their generous funding which made this lovely, positive day possible. It was great to be able to offer this group of refugees and asylum seekers the chance to enjoy Malham and the Open Studios art trail, and it seems very apt that this week is also Refugee Week in the UK.”

Refugee Week (16-22 June) is a UK-wide programme of arts, cultural and educational events and activities that celebrates the contribution of refugees to the UK and promotes better understanding of why people seek sanctuary.

The ‘People and the DALES’ project encourages people from disadvantaged and urban backgrounds to experience the natural environment of the Yorkshire Dales and enjoy activities such as walks, farm visits, conservation work and crafts.