Community House Eton Rd

Old Tradition - New Style      

A 'Chapel' Trip from Community House, Newport  An article sent to the PCW Welsh newspaper 'Y Goleaud'

In the 1950s the Sunday School trip to Barry Island was one of the highlights of the year.  On the appointed day, long yearned for, almost everyone in the little mining village of Fochriw would be at the station, eagerly awaiting the train which would take us all the way.  Children’s pockets would be full of, pennies kindly donated by relatives and neighbours.  There wasn’t much money around in those days and for some people it was one of the few outings they would have. 

Even those children who didn’t normally go to Sunday School would have been good attendees for the last few months.  I can remember now the disapproval of one ‘respectable’ elder,  who annually treated these children to a fair amount of disdain when they turned up for their tickets.  I remember, also, as a young child, being aware of how this attitude was at odds with my idea of Christian love. 

You see, Fochriw had consisted of a settled and isolated community, where life revolved around chapel and where Welsh was the language of all generations before mine.  Then, in 1953, two new housing estates were built and the population doubled or even trebled overnight.  Many families were housed by the NCB, a perk to attract men from far afield to work in the local colliery.  The newcomers were not really accepted by the good people of Fochriw.  There were families who never went to chapel and women who went to the pub (unheard of until then, in Fochriw).  The sad fact was that the village consisted of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and I believe that many of the past cultural activities closed down, rather than let ’them’ join in.  We must ensure that we are not guilty of this ‘us’ and ‘them’ culture today.

Why this nostalgia?  On Saturday May 16th we, at Community House Newport, organised a trip to Parc Cwm Darren, in the Rhymney Valley for the Muslim ladies who come to Community House for our friendship group, building relationships between Christians and Muslims, or YAMS, Young Asian Mums, who have a programme based on childcare, nurture, cooking etc. Spending time with these delightful women, it is apparent that they do not ‘get out’ much.  Some may have come all the way from Pakistan or Bangladesh to live in Newport, but once here, rarely leave their immediate neighbourhood.

Mentro Allan is a programme to increase and sustain physical activity levels encourage respect for the environment among people of minority ethnic backgrounds. This includes Muslim women and their young children.  Mentro Allan was persuaded to pay for the coach, so that the women and children, fifty five of us in total, could go to Deri, for a day of activities, including walking, cycling, archery Tai Chi etc.

Why was I reminded of the Sunday School trips of bygone days? Well, it was the excitement, and all those kids, turning up in atrocious weather, for their day out.  It really did rain most of the day, but the mums had brought picnics, and the visitors centre was nice and dry, the views were lovely and the sun did come out now and again.  Not one person complained about anything, despite the fact that there was not a cup of tea to be had.  People shared food, a single birthday cake was cut up into small enough pieces for everyone to have one and about fifty people sang ‘Happy birthday’ to one lucky little girl.

So where it ‘The Kingdom’ in this.  Four Christians, two of us Welsh, one from Manipoor (North East India) and one from Malta spent a day with about fifty Muslims.  We had great companionship, fun and laughter, shared food and good experiences, tried new activities and made friends with the people who had put on the activities. (The organisers would have had a very sad day without us – not many other people turned up in the rain.)  The women and children would know that we cared enough to organize the day out for them.  They also know that Community House is a place where they are always treated with respect and where they feel safe.

Don't forget to look in Galleries 2009 for photographs!  

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