You think that you’ve had a tough day?

Things haven’t gone too well and you’re feeling a bit down.

You go home, have a drink, perhaps watch TV and things seem a bit better.

Not so bad after all, things will be better tomorrow.

Now imagine this, the sound of a plane overhead, your children run to hide, fearing another air raid and their home might be bombed, and this has happened most days for the past year.

You decide enough is enough. You collect two bags of possessions, your two children, one 12yrs old and one 7yrs old and your only form of identification, an ID card written in Cyrillic that no one really understands and you head for the bus station.

You want to get out of your homeland as quickly as you can.

Your husband & the children’s father can not join you, and you don’t know when you might see him again as he is away, in another part of the country surrounded by an armed enemy force.

With almost nothing to your name you somehow get the bus to the border, in this case Moldova, people who you have never met before and probably will not see you again offer you food and shelter.

You travel through Moldova to Romania and then on to Poland, where you do know someone who knows someone who can help contact a family friend in America who is able to help you with plane tickets.

At every border there are issues with ID but strangers are so helpful.

This is just one story from one family of Ukrainian refugees that Tonbridge Lions were able to treat to a wonderful day of freedom at Bedgebury Pinetum on Saturday 8th July.

Instigated by IPP Lion Richard Hill, who met a volunteer from Tonbridge Welcomes Refugees and asked, could we help?

We took a group of 30, mum’s and their children aged from just 2yrs up to 14yrs on two minibuses provided at very favourable rates from our friends at COMPAID.

We met at Tonbridge Castle at 9am and arrived at Bedgebury about 10am.

Our guests were given wristbands showing at what time they could collect their cycles or the start time for their Tree Top Adventure, where they could traverse through the trees on rope bridges and aerial runways.

Their smiles were heartwarming and their sense of freedom in the open air, with no restrictions nor worries was a joy to behold.

Every guest enjoyed at least one activity and also had free time to themselves to explore.

The staff at Bedgebury were extremely helpful and patient, they made us feel very welcome.

A superb, hearty picnic prepared and served by Lions & partners was enjoyed by all and our guests were invited to take any leftover food home with them.

The weather was warm and muggy but luckily the rain that was promised from 10am did not arrive until just after lunch at about 2pm.

We planned our return route to avoid the traffic queues on the A21 and everyone was back in Tonbridge soon after 3pm.

What an absolutely brilliant and worthwhile Lions’ Day.

I will never again judge a “refugee” without first listening to their story.

Thank you to all who helped make the day such a success.

Lion Keith "Lofty" Bunyon
Chairman of the Lions Day organising committee
Tonbridge Lions Club