Syrian refugees visit Hunstanton

Syrian refugees visit Hunstanton
Hosts and visitors happy in the Hunstanton sunshine. Photo credit John Bridger

OUT OF THE ORDINARY: “EVERY DAY A GOOD DAY”.

If I could arrange the weather I couldn’t have done any better for the day of Wednesday 4th August: the air was kind with gentle breezes, the arch of blue sky was freckled with puffs of white, the sun beamed on its universe as if to say all is well.

A group of volunteers gathered in the Seagate Coach Park about 11 a.m. waiting expectantly for a group of people to arrive in two coaches from Norwich.

Cast your mind back ten years or so when the news was full of the Syrian conflict – a conflict which has continued to destroy the lives of its people ever since. Towns bombed, buildings pummelled, people killed, maimed and traumatised. The structure of the country built up over millennia gradually broken and the livelihoods of all those people who had helped create and nurture it, smashed into the crumble of concrete and bricks.

If chance spared them there was nowhere to find shelter and peace unless they left. And leaving meant they left behind their identities forged in the landscapes and townscapes of a country they may never see again or at least until this conflict has been resolved.

Such people are the Syrian refugees who have settled in Norwich and we welcomed some of them to Hunstanton on Wednesday 4th August - a small offering to help ease their way forward in this country.

Yvonne Bridger, who has for four years running, organised this outing from the Hunstanton end, had put a huge effort into gathering the resources needed to ensure that everyone enjoyed themselves.

After the coaches had arrived, our guests for the day were met by the Mayor of Hunstanton, Adrian Winnington, and his wife Catherine. They had thoughtfully and generously provided a big box of drinks and snacks for the families to refresh them after their journey.

Gathering by the Big Wheel we were allocated our families for the day.

Walter who works for the Big Wheel Company had offered free rides for those who wanted it and so some of our party got to experience the enormous views from the top and begin to take in where they had come.

After that it was free time to explore the beach and the playground in the Heritage Gardens.

I stayed with half of our allocated family on the beach and spent the time chatting to them. The younger members, even in the 18 months since they arrived in Norwich, had become very good in their language skills and it was possible to forge relationships quite quickly. I found that the mother in our family group was a woman of spirit and friendliness. She and I have an interest in cooking and as I am keen on Middle Eastern food she offered to teach me some Syrian recipes. I hope at some point this will happen. Her grown up children talked to me about their plans for how to create their futures in the UK and impressed me with their ambition and determination.

Excited to be on the beach, the younger children loved splashing in the sea which sparkled blue on this most lovely of days.

There was even a 4 month old baby carried around for the day who was loved and looked after by all the Syrian women around her.

The generosity of the owner of The Vegas Fish Bar, Joe Rodrigues, meant that we all gathered there for a free fish and chip lunch. This seaside experience was taking on an authenticity which everyone was appreciating!

Satiated with food there was now some free time before a visit to the Sea Life Centre and some of the youngsters went on the fun fair rides.

I will never forget their laughing faces as they came towards us afterwards, breathless with pure pleasure.

“ That was soooo good!” one of them cried.

The Sea Life Centre was a success too. Nigel Croasdale the General Manager has provided complimentary tickets each year they have come for the families and helpers. There were many expressions of delight and surprise as everyone explored the interior of the centre.

Sadly it was time now for the coaches to take the Syrians back to Norwich.

Adrian Winnington and Catherine had returned to wish them well for their return journey. People’s enthusiasm for their experience of Hunstanton could be heard amongst the throng of departing guests.

Good seemed to be the feeling they all expressed about the day.

Earlier when Yvonne asked one of the women whether she was having a good day she replied:

“EVERY DAY A GOOD DAY”

Her answer struck right at the heart of something. Here are people who have experienced the unimaginable – losses and trauma greater than most of us can barely dream of and yet, and yet…… somewhere within the spirit remains indomitable. These victims of cruelty and brute force still have hope and it was our privilege to meet them and learn what it is to survive well.

This day would not have been possible without the organisation and help of volunteers Dale Craske, Ale, Michael, Netty and Tina all from the People Abroad Team, Norfolk County Council.

From Hunstanton: Grace and family, Kathryn and Rosie, Margi, Martin and Mylo, John and of course Yvonne whose dedication to organising this trip is founded in her refusal to ever forget the murder of Jo Cox, former MP for Batley and Spen, who firmly believed ‘we have more in common than that which divides us’.

A last but not least mention of those Hunstanton business managers mentioned above, whose generosity helped to fund the day.