Connecting people and place

Logo: Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust

When People and the DALES (Diversity, Access, Learning, Environment, Sustainability), Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust’s outreach project, won the Government’s Year of Green Action Award, it was a celebration of not only ten years hard work but the number of lives the scheme has touched.

Judy Rogers and Rosie Russell-Cohen receive the 2019 Year of  Green Action Award (Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust)
Judy Rogers and Rosie Russell-Cohen receive the 2019 Year of Green Action Award (Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust)

Representatives from the programme received the prestigious accolade in a parliamentary reception attended by Ministers and MPs as well as leaders from across the environmental sector.

The project was celebrated for ‘connecting people and place at a time when that relationship is at risk’ by the judging panel headed by the Campaign for National Parks.

People and the DALES welcomes groups from nearby urban areas of Leeds, Bradford and North West Lancashire into the stunning Yorkshire Dales for health and wellbeing opportunities.

Participants include people with a disability, young people, people from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, individuals from deprived locations and those with mental health difficulties.

To date, more than 10,000 individuals have taken part in People and the DALES events including walks, lambing, tree planting, conservation work and training.

The award-winning scheme enables people that would not otherwise take part in such activities, such as refugees and asylum seekers, to experience the Yorkshire Dales.

Judy Rogers, YDMT’s Community Development Worker, said: “It was a pleasure to receive the award on behalf of all the refugees and asylum seekers we have worked with over the last 10 years.

“It has been amazing working with such resilient, hardworking and cheerful people despite the trauma and adversity they have experienced. Their stories have enriched my life and the lives of those that they have met.

“In a small way I hope that the visits they have made to the Yorkshire Dales, through People and the DALES, have given them hope for a better life, respite from the waiting for acceptance from the Home Office, and an opportunity to experience a warm welcome from people who live in this amazing landscape.

“It is thanks to our supporters and partners that we can achieve such success and make a real difference. Organisations like People’s Postcode Lottery and the Heritage Fund have had a significant impact on our work, as have Natural England, Malham Tarn Field Centre, Friends of the Dales, Morrisons, the Wharfedale Foundation, the George Martin Trust and members of local communities.” 

A group from Horton Housing enjoying a session lambing  (Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust)
A group from Horton Housing enjoying a session lambing (Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust)

People and the DALES is run by Judy and Rosie from the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust’s office in Clapham, in the south of the national park.

Over the last ten years it has worked with many organisations who give up their time and energy to the project voluntarily, all to make a difference to people’s lives.

And it is a truly Park-wide effort. People and the DALES couldn’t happen without partnerships that have been cultivated over many years.

Farmers such as Rodney Beresford at Ribblehead and Neil Heseltine at Malham allow groups onto their farms to help with lambing and tree planting while organisations such as Natural England give opportunities for drystone walling.

Then there are friendship weekends when local communities welcome refugees and asylum seekers into their homes for events themed around friendship.

This year, in partnership with the community in Skipton and Bradford Immigration and Asylum Seekers Support and Advice Network (BIASAN), families from China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan participated in activities such as gardening and making bird feeders, ceilidh dancing and singing and felt-making and mosaics.

People and the DALES changes lives and those who have been involved become advocates for not only the project but for the national park too. Tinta is just one of those people.

Originally from Ivory Coast, he has visited the Dales three times with YDMT – most recently as part of an archaeological dig which explored the site of a medieval chapel to the south of the current Methodist Chapel in Malham.

He arrived in the UK in 2012 after fleeing Ivory Coast and his story illustrates why People and the DALES is so powerful at fostering new friendships and understanding between communities, as well as improving wellbeing for so many diverse groups.

He says: “My dad started his own business importing and exporting cocoa and Peugeot cars, and by 1998 it employed 200 people. Then chaos and political turmoil arose. The south and north were in conflict. Dad was a northerner living in the south and was accused of being a traitor.

Tree planting with Darwen Asylum Seekers and Refugee  Enterprise (Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust)
Tree planting with Darwen Asylum Seekers and Refugee Enterprise (Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust)

“A snatch squad arrested him. They were not the police but army commandos. We gave them money but still they took him. He was shot three hours later. I was 13 and my life was turned upside down.

“It had been planned that I’d go to London to study, and then come back and take the keys to the business. Now I was taken by the military and accused of being a traitor. Luckily, a French UN unit intervened, and I was released. But, because I was the son of a murdered man they thought I would come after them. My life was in danger.

“I am claiming asylum and live in Blackburn. I’m studying at Blackburn College, volunteer in the office at the Asylum and Refugee Centre and at the weekly Drop-In. Despite many challenges I want to support new refugees.

“I translate for Arabic and French speakers helping them in their case with the Home Office, and spend time talking to students in local schools about life as a refugee in a bid to spread awareness and break down barriers.

“I took part in the People and the DALES training event near Ribblehead where we learnt to read maps and use a compass.

“Every time I come to this area, I don’t want to leave. It’s uplifting!”

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