CMD Dolgellau Students Take Part in Landmark Oral History Project

Ffion Freeman and Rebecca Fox, two Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor A-level students based at the college’s Dolgellau campus, have been helping with a landmark oral history project to commemorate how one small rural village in Meirionnydd opened its arms to refugees fleeing persecution 50 years ago.

In late 1972, Idi Amin expelled 70,000 Asian people from Uganda; 28,200 of these came to Britain. For six months, several hundred of those were accommodated in the old army base at Tonfanau near Tywyn, Meirionnydd.

Through its ‘British Ugandan Asians at 50’ project funded by the National Lottery, the India Overseas Trust is interviewing people who volunteered at the camp, or were themselves residents there. The project will include photographs taken at the time, and other memorabilia such as letters, posters, leaflets, items from Uganda etc. All of these will be featured on a new website, and will also be permanently placed in the Living Refugee Archive so that students and the general public can access them for free.

Ffion and Rebecca took time off during the weekend to help film and interview local residents about their recollections and experiences of welcoming those who were fleeing persecution.

Ffion Freeman said: “Getting the opportunity to help out on this project was a really uplifting experience for me personally. Learning how one small community helped those fleeing Uganda 50 years ago is very important; it was a massive privilege.”

Warwick Hawkins from British Asian Uganda at 50 said: “Involving young, local people in this project is something that’s been high on our agenda from the start. It’s only through learning and talking about our shared experiences that we understand and hear the voices of those people who came to Tonfanau 50 years ago. We thank Ffion and Rebecca for their excellent work on the project, and the college too, for all its support.”

Bethan Lloyd Owen-Hughes, General Education programme area manager at Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor, said: “As Europe is facing another humanitarian crisis in the Ukraine, getting our students involved in this project was of the upmost importance for us at the college.

“History and the world around us can at times be scary, but giving our students the insight and understanding of such issues has always been one of the central pillars of the kind of education and experience we offer our students.”

“We thank the British Asian Uganda at 50 project for this opportunity, and we hope to work with them again as the project moves into the next phase.”

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