Nestled in the heart of Cardiff, within the Parkminster United Reformed Church, an individual passionately dedicates their time to a cause that goes beyond the typical scenes of playgroups. In a luminous church hall, this individual navigates through the challenges of storing toys, providing solace, and creating a haven for children who have embarked on a tumultuous journey as asylum seekers and refugees in the UK.
However, the current venue, while functional, serves as a temporary stopgap for Trinity Centre—an organization focused on aiding vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees during a critical juncture in their lives. Trinity Centre’s primary mission involves providing food, essential supplies, English lessons, and support for those adapting to life in a new country. Asylum seekers, often unable to work during application processing, face a challenging period, compounded by the uncertainty of legal support.
The playgroup, funded by Children in Need and running for over 14 years through the Welsh Refugee Council’s play project, is a beacon of hope for children grappling with trauma, loss, and the challenges of acclimating to a foreign environment. The group ensures that children receive toys and books in their first languages, fostering a positive experience amid the turmoil.
“Toys are crucial to a child’s development at this stage,” the individual emphasizes, shedding light on the heart breaking reality that many children arrive in the UK with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, leaving cherished possessions behind. The playgroup strives to fill this void, providing not only toys but also creating a bedtime routine through books.
Amid the chaos of asylum seekers moving from one temporary accommodation to another, the Trinity Centre, currently based in the Parkminster Church, emerges as a sanctuary for families in dire need. The individual articulates the challenges faced by asylum seekers, debunking media misconceptions and portraying a stark contrast between public perceptions and the actual conditions experienced by those seeking refuge.
Contrary to sensationalized depictions, the Trinity Centre operates on the principle of community spirit. The individual narrates an incident where a lady with a broken pushchair, unable to afford a new one, found support from another project affiliated with Trinity, highlighting the collaborative and compassionate ethos that defines the centre.
A short drive from the temporary location stands the original Trinity Methodist Church building, the envisioned long-term home for Trinity Centre. A coordinator describes the multi-faceted nature of their role, encompassing building maintenance, social media management, personnel coordination, and event organization. As the sole paid staff member, this individual acknowledges the challenges posed by the aged and dilapidated state of the building.
Despite the decrepit conditions, Trinity’s original church is a warm and welcoming space, serving as a hub for asylum seekers and refugees. The coordinator emphasizes the one-stop-shop concept, providing access to English lessons, clothing and food banks, toiletries, parenting classes, toddler groups, and a birth partner project for asylum-seeking women.
The challenges faced by asylum seekers have intensified over the years, making it harder for organizations like Trinity to secure funding and stay open. The coordinator notes a growing tension in the community, with instances of unwelcome comments forcing the centre to sever ties with certain individuals. Trinity, however, remains committed to being a safe space, shielding asylum seekers from hostile opinions.
A volunteer chair of Trinity Centre recounts uplifting moments, such as a coffee morning turning into an informal English practice class during Ramadan, where a generous lady baked cookies for everyone present. These instances exemplify the spirit of giving back within the Trinity community.
The original Trinity building, while symbolic and cherished, is in urgent need of refurbishment. Plans include better lighting, increased storage, a welcoming entrance, and improved facilities to cater to the diverse needs of the community. The refurbishment, estimated at £2.5 million, is set to commence in January 2024, with funding sourced from various entities, including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, National Lottery Community Fund, the Methodist Church, and the Welsh Government’s Community Facilities Programme.
The centre’s treasurer acknowledges the challenges of funding a project of this magnitude but expresses gratitude for the overwhelming support from the Cardiff community. Despite the financial hurdles, the Trinity Centre remains resolute in its commitment to transforming the dilapidated church into a revitalized and sustainable space for years to come.
As the refurbishment project prepares to kick off, the coordinator expresses heartfelt gratitude to all the funding bodies, emphasizing that Trinity’s vision of a warm and welcoming space for asylum seekers and refugees would not be possible without their support. The Trinity Centre stands poised to not only undergo a physical transformation but also continue its crucial role in providing solace and support to those seeking refuge in the UK.