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Between the Mountains and the Sea

“Between the mountains and the sea, the people of Lebanon find a home, just as the people of Wales do. Lebanon borders larger neighbours, just as Wales does, and it has natural beauty that takes the breath away, just as Wales does. Perhaps that is why Lebanese people feel so much at home in Wales.”

Wassim Madi

With an area smaller than the Falkland Islands, many Welsh people might struggle to find Lebanon on a map of the world. But treasured gifts often come in small packages, and Lebanon’s gifts to Wales are making the country a happier place. Wassim Madi, his wife Salma and their children Sara, Ahmad and Omar are familiar faces to the people of Swansea. Since their arrival in the city the Madi family have sought out ways to support their neighbours, and their actions are having a wider and wider impact.

Ahmad and Omar Madi are star pupils at Pentrehafod School.

Sara Madi’s project work with the African Community Centre has seen her become a champion of equality for young women in Wales.

Salma Madi’s warmth and positivity have made her a leading figure in community groups around the city.

And Wassim Madi is using the skills he acquired over many years as a senior journalist to create and share positive news about Swansea and add value to the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens.

As part of the People’s Library’s outreach programme, we’re working with Care Homes around South Wales to support residents with dementia, creating art projects that remind older people of the interesting things they’ve done with their lives. One of our flagship projects, at the Hollies Care Home in Pontardulais, owes its success to the diligence and compassion of the Madi family and, most notably, to Wassim’s research skills. We’ll let him explain:

“Our project at the Hollies Care Home seeks to recreate treasured memories for the residents. One lady in particular stands out for me. Kathleen travelled to Australia in 1966 to work as a nurse. My research with her family gave me the name of the ship she sailed on. I then found that this ship only made one journey to Australia in 1966, so I knew the dates of the Kathleen’s journey and the places she stopped on the way. It was a one-month trip, leaving Southampton on August 24th and arriving at Adelaide on September 23rd. On the way Kathleen stopped at Port Said and made a trip to Cairo and the Pyramids. I was able to find photographs of these places dating from 1966, so it was possible to show Kathleen exactly what she would have seen on her journey. When she arrived in Adelaide, Kathleen worked as a nurse. By contacting the South Australia Health Board and asking for confirmation of the uniform worn by nurses in Adelaide at this time, I was able to find a picture that showed Kathleen exactly what she was wearing. We’ve created a tree mural in the Care Home. Kathleen and her friends will each have a branch of the tree, with each leaf representing a treasured memory. When we saw Kathleen’s response to the mural and the images, it was one of the most satisfying moments of my life.”

Wassim’s skills will be invaluable in the second half of 2023 when the People’s Library delivers a snapshot of Swansea life through a series of interviews with local politicians, business leaders and community leaders. In volunteering his services, Wassim will bring not only years of experience as a writer and interviewer, but also the perspective of someone building a new life for his family in a city and a country that he quickly came to love.

“Wales has been so good to my wife, to my children and to me. The warmth of the community has encouraged us to reach out and make a contribution, and I am excited by the opportunity to tell the story of Swansea with these interviews. Every day, my family meet new people of all ages and backgrounds who help make Swansea the fascinating place it is today. Some of them, like Kathleen, have travelled the world. Others have spent their entire lives here, and when I think of this beautiful city, between the mountains and the sea, I can easily understand why they have stayed. My family and I want to stay also. When people ask me what Swansea means to me, I can tell them in one word. It means “home”.

Thank you, Wassim. Your many friends in Swansea, whose lives you celebrate and enrich, want you to stay too.


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