Mitzvah Day happens each November; it is a day where individuals and businesses can give their time instead of money to create a difference in their local community.

It is a Jewish lead project and the celebration was put together by Hawkshead local Abigail Mann. The Cumbrian community welcomed around 170 Syrian refugees for a day of sharing all things that each culture may take for granted and volunteering in local projects. Cumbrians partnered with groups of Syrians to show them all the hidden delights of The Lake District such as cruising along Lake Windermere, making (and of course eating) local chocolate and cycling in the Grizedale forest.

The Syrians donated their time in return to help local charities and provided the whole village with an authentic Middle Eastern meal.

A Brathay minibus at Wray Castle

Brathay’s part in this year’s international faith-based celebration was to provide a minibus to help transport groups around the Lake District, as well as providing two guided walks to some of our most special places.

The first involved a walk around the shore of Tarn Hows, which provided a family friendly adventure. The weather could not have been better for a crisp November day. The sun bounced off the Tarn as the children fed the ducks.

The locals and tourists also making the most of the weather were more than welcoming, with some even joining in with the walk. Great entertainment was had singing songs in both languages and meeting plenty of friendly people. The children also taught me some Arabic but unfortunately I am unable to share this with you as for me it is a complex language to write.

The afternoon walk took us from Brathay Hall, along the shore of Lake Windermere to the glorious Wray Castle. The adults loved exploring and learning the history behind its construction almost as much as the children loved running around the adventure playground. The Syrians then provided us with their own surprise by pulling out of their rucksacks what can only be described as a four course dinner to share with everybody including the bus drivers.

It was a great experience for me and I hope that after seeing a very small part of the Lake District’s treasures they continue to explore, even though Mitzvah Day has come to end this year. The Cumbrian community should be proud of how welcome they made the refugees feel and I urge everyone to explore the fascinating Syrian culture. They are extremely friendly people who are only too happy to share what they have.

Prior to the day I was apprehensive about the language barrier but using the international language of sound effects and hand gestures we were able to not only communicate but share stories and jokes which made for a great day and I for one can’t wait for next year.