Heritage of Dolen Cymru

Dolen Cymru ‘early years’ timeline on Knightlab

Dolen Cymru, the Wales-Lesotho link was officially launched in 1985, introducing the unique concept of nation-to-nation twinning which brought together schools, churches, hospitals, farmers, women, and more. Dolen Cymru will celebrate their 40th anniversary in 2025, and generations of young people and professionals Wales-wide have participated in formative exchanges between the two nations. Dolen today have their offices in the Temple of Peace, and continue the work of building global partnerships.

But what was the inspiration behind the Wales Lesotho Link, and how did it come to fruition? This feature explores the origins of the idea, the campaigns, contributions and community projects that cemented the relationship between Wales and Lesotho over generations – by creating a narrative building on wide-ranging archival materials that have come to light through WCIA volunteer research at the National Library and Temple Archives over Summer 2023 (with many thanks to student placement Khai nor Shahmir, supported by WCIA Heritage Advisor Craig Owen).

Origins and Inspiration, 1975 – 84

In the mid-1970s, there were a number of health and education projects spearheaded by the Maseru Round Table aiming to build classrooms for primary schools in Lesotho, which was funded through UNICEF in Wales. Hospitals were also renovated, and food and medical supplies were donated.

1980s. £90,000 was raised for the all-Wales UNICEF project in Lesotho.

In 1979, efforts across Wales to support the UN International Year of the Child (IYC) managed to fundraise campaigns for schools, social welfare, water, and health projects in Lesotho.

Over the course of several years, more and more Welsh organisations and individuals became directly involved in what were initially UNICEF and FFHC (Freedom from Hunger Campaign)-driven projects. 1981 saw the launch of the NFWI (National Federation of Women’s Institutes) Women and Water Appeal in Zimbabwe and Lesotho, which focused on providing a clean water supply to locals. This initiated a series of exchanges between Welsh and Basutho partners that led to a relationship building between two nations that seemed to have many interests in common.

In 1982, people Wales-wide contributed to a series of dialogues exploring Wales’ role internationally. How could Wales make a distinct contribution to developing nations in the global South, especially in impacting upon the scourge of poverty? The suggestion of Wales ‘adopting’ a small African country was raised as a twinning proposal by Montgomeryshire UNA; stating that there needed to be sustainable and long-term action, where ties and friendships were put at the forefront and strengthened between nations.

1982. Dr. Carl Iwan Clowes writes an article titled Cymru a’r ‘Tlotaf o’r tlawd (“Wales and the poorest of the poor”).

The novel concept of nation twinning was given public voice in an article written by the founder and first chair of Dolen Cymru, Dr. Carl Iwan Clowes, featured in the Welsh magazine Y Faner. The article studied 31 of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and explored Wales’ potential answer to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) international call of “Health for All by the year 2000″. Dr Clowes suggested Wales ‘adopt’ one of the LDCs in order to provide effective aid through a permanent and focused link of friendship and mutual understanding. This was proposed in a letter to the Director General of the WHO, which received an encouraging response.

It was the third Dialogue at the Eisteddfod in Llangefni that pushed for action and allowed Dr. Clowes to expand on the idea; emphasis would be placed on community instead of material aid, and links would be formed at all levels — between people, societies and organisations, technical and social, medical and cultural. A Steering Committee was formed to research it further. Several pamphlets and proposals were produced outlining the link’s aims to gather support, and steps were taken to become a registered charity.

Four aims of the Wales Link were identified: to create a bridge across the divide between Wales and one of the LDCs, bring two different communities together, strengthen the link through mutual understanding of each country, and flourish into a multi-linking of people, groups, and institutions.

1984. Various news clippings covering the concept behind Dolen Cymru and the potential of twinning with a LDC.

People from all over Wales were consulted directly through a press release on 19 December 1983, which encouraged people to send in their suggestions on which country might be best suited to become ‘Wales’ twin’. Dr. Clowes brings more attention to the link by attending a prime-time interview and writing another article in Y Faner discussing the new initiative. By February 1984, the Steering Committee had shortlisted four countries: Botswana, Malawi, Tanzania and Lesotho.

Lesotho kept popping up as an ideal choice: previous campaigns by UNICEF and FFHC were successfully held there, and it held many significant similarities to Wales – from coal mining to sheep farming, and the dominance of a neighbouring nation with a very different global outlook! (during the 1980s, Lesotho neighboured Apartheid South Africa and Wales and its mining communities faced Margaret Thatcher). In April 1984 the Committee confirmed their final decision on Lesotho and the link was kick-started.

  • View the proposal for the Dolen Cymru Lesotho — Wales Lesotho Link.
  • O. T. Sefako, the High Commissioner of Lesotho, gives his support for the link and calls the Committee for a meeting.
  • Dr. Clowes reaches out to the Gwynedd Health Authority in the interest of developing health links and receives a response exploring the possibility of hosting visitors from Lesotho.
  • Wales welcomes its first visitors from Lesotho at the Gwynedd — three School Secretaries of the largest church denominations in Lesotho — in December 1984.

Official Launch of Dolen Cymru, 1985

The ‘Live Aid’ movement of 1984 – still one of the highest-profile humanitarian ‘moments’ in UK history – catapulted development in Africa to the forefront of public consciousness and interest. In Wales, the question being raised was “how can we make a distinct contribution?” Beyond giving money to celebrity drives, the proposal to develop a country-to-country twinning link with Lesotho was given further momentum, and Dolen Cymru was founded at a meeting in the Temple of Peace in 1985.

The launch event was held just over the road from the Temple of Peace in the Welsh Office, seat of the UK Government in Wales, and was attended by Lesotho High Commissioner Mr. O.T. Sefako.

1985. The link is officially launched at the Welsh Office in Cardiff on the 12th of March.

Efforts were taken to increase awareness of the link through a visit to Lesotho by Emeritus Professor Robert Steel, who was active with the British Council’s international work. Various people were contacted and briefed, including King Moshoeshoe and Queen ‘Mamohato. Major key areas of the link were identified, which included health, education, agriculture, churches, and women’s organisations. By July, there were already nine active school links, links between the Young Farmers Club in Wales and Lesotho, and possibilities of Welsh involvement in healthcare, water resource, and environmental protection.

1985. Poster for the ‘Arian Byw’ concert held on the 11th of August.

In August, Wales excitingly had its first musical taste of Lesotho through the well-known band ‘Sankomota’, who performed at the Arian Byw concert that took place at the Rhyl National Eisteddfod, which was intended to gather funds for the Ethiopian famine appeal. The NFWI had also raised £50,836 to fund the Rural Sanitation Project in Lesotho which aimed to improve the water supply. By September, the Young Farmers Club and the Council of Churches in Wales were playing an active part in the link, and more developments were made in areas of forestry and agriculture.

By November, Dolen Cymru’s first-ever newsletter documents:

  • Sixteen active school links.
  • The formation of a Lesotho-Wales Link Committee.
  • Five Lesotho students taking courses in Wales.
  • Correspondence made with the National Council of Women in Lesotho.
  • The funding of a Lesotho Health and Population Project between 1986-90 by the World Bank.
  • Discussion with a British Council representative in Lesotho on the ways the link could be supported.

By the end of the year, there were already twenty-five school links, with further enthusiasm shown from churches, Young Farmers, women’s groups, Rotary, The University of Wales and health organisations. With 1986 approaching (also Lesotho’s 20th anniversary of independence), Dr. Clowes called for greater commitment to the link from Wales.

The Founding Decade, 1985 + …

Notable events and projects spanning the years 1986-1995 are detailed below. For more details of Dolen Cymru’s campaigning activities and the strengthening relationships between Wales and Lesotho, explore the digitised archives and their bi-annual newsletters. The original documents can be viewed in the Temple of Peace Archives, and in the National Library of Wales.

Wales-Lesotho Link
1986. Pamphlet distributed for the Blanket Appeal.
  • Collection of surplus medical equipment from Welsh hospitals in response to a call for related equipment from the District Hospital in Mohale’s Hoek and St. James Hospital in Mantsonyane.
  • Dr. John Kolane, High Commissioner of Lesotho, visits the National Eisteddfod in Fishguard.
  • Bangor parish of St. Davids and St. James links with the Anglican Parish of Maseru.
  • Wrexham-Maelor Borough Council joins Dolen Cymru in hopes of linking with a district in Lesotho.
  • Appeal by the Maseru Rotary Club for aid in a series of water well projects in Lesotho.
  • The ‘Blanket for Lesotho’ appeal was launched and coordinated with the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service in Wales (WRVS).
1987. Peace and Goodwill Message of the Youth of Wales.
  • Dr. Clowes and Paul Williams visit Lesotho in February.
  • Special concert performed by the Maseru Teachers’ Choir to Dolen Cymru visitors.
  • 4,350 blankets successfully collected for the Blanket Appeal.
  • Two of Dolen Cymru’s committee visits Lesotho in May to strengthen educational links.
  • Peace and Goodwill Message prepared by Ysgol Morgan Llywd.
  • Release of the ‘Lesotho-Cymru’ record, a collection of songs from Wales and Lesotho.
  • Donation of a fire engine to Lesotho by the Clwyd Fire Service.
  • Mr Julius Tebello Metsing, First Counsellor at the Lesotho High Commission, attends Dolen Cymru stand at the National Eisteddfod.
  • Dolen Cymru meets with the heads of the Highland Water Scheme in Lesotho for discussion of Welsh involvement.
  • Professor Glyn O. Phillips visits Lesotho in August, drawing up a training programme for the Highland Water Scheme.
  • Bangor Primary Pupils appeal for school books for their twin school in Lesotho.
  • Nurses at Llandudno General send a large parcel of baby clothes and cot blankets to twin ward at Mohale Hoek’s District Hospital.
  • HTV film crew visit Lesotho to shoot a series of programmes on the link.
1988. The Maseru Teachers’ Choir at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod; featured in the Western Mail.
  • BBC Wales Controller Gareth Price visits Lesotho to report on the development of broadcasting.
  • The Sallie Davies Memorial Competition is held in order to contribute funds to a UNICEF project in Lesotho. View the outcome in the WCIA and Dolen Cymru newsletters.
  • First TV documentaries on the link airs in April.
  • A representative of Dolen Cymru meets with Queen ‘Mamohato in London.
  • Desks donated to Mopeli High School by Ysgol Morgan Llwyd.
  • The Teachers’ Choir from Maseru give performances all throughout Wales, most notably at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
  • Rt Rev Philip Mokuku has a 10-day visit to Wales in August.
  • Collected medical equipment from Welsh hospitals arrive in Lesotho in September.
  • View a table of the visits made from the years 1985-88 in the No. 3 newsletter.
  • Anglesey links with Mafeteng, becoming the first local Welsh authority to twin with a South African district.
  • Radio Lesotho Music Producer Molefe Sello visits the National Youth Eisteddfod at the invitation of Dolen Cymru and plans for similar competitions in Lesotho.
  • Lesotho’s Minister of Education makes visit to Wales in September.
  • Lesotho makes textbook plea for Secondary forms one to five.
  • The Lesotho Homemakers Association links with Merched y Wawr.
1990. The members of Cantorion Coedpoeth; featured in the Wrexham Leader.
  • Three Welsh church leaders represent the Council of Churches in Wales in a visit to Lesotho in a friendship mission.
  • The city of Maseru links with Cardiff; view the twinning proposal.
  • The Mayor of Maseru and the new High Commissioner of Lesotho, Mr. Kenneth Tsekoa, visit Cardiff.
  • Welsh choir Cantorion Coedpoeth visit Lesotho for a two-week tour in April.
  • Mid Glamorgan Health Authority awarded with £500,000 contract to undertake work in the Lesotho Health Service.
  • Anglesey Borough Council invites senior official of the Mafeteng District Development Council to Wales.
  • Link starts between the Maseru Swallows Football Club and Cardiff City.
  • Dolen Cymru donates trophies to the Lesotho Music Association (LMA) as prizes for the National Choral Music Competitions.
  • Lecturers from the North-East Wales Institute of Higher Education (NEWI) begin work at Lerotholi Polytechnic to upgrade courses at Lesotho’s only polytechnic.
  • Mrs. Malikeleli Mokokoane, President of the Lesotho Homemakers Association, visits Wales in October to strengthen ties between the women’s organisations.
1991. Children taking part in the Nursery Schools Festival; featured in the Bangor Chronicle.
  • The Nursery Schools Festival of Mudiad Meithrin (the Welsh Nursery Schools movement) has its focus on the children of Lesotho and raises money for Nursery Education in Lesotho through sponsored singing in schools.
  • Dolen establishes a new Youth Sub-Committee in May.
  • Lesotho-Wales Link recognised as a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) in Lesotho.
  • Dolen Cymru has its first annual lecture.
  • Dr. Clowes joins AIM (Action in International Medicine) as Dolen’s representative.
  • Wales Young Farmers’ Clubs raise funds for a Landrover for the Lesotho Homemakers following Mrs. Mokokoane’s visit.
  • An inter-school musical competition inspired by the Urdd Eisteddfod takes place in Lesotho in August.
  • Dolen reconstitutes a Church Sub-Committee and plan to invite four Lesotho Church Leaders.
  • UNA IYS Workcamps Exchanges take place, sending volunteers to help with projects in Lesotho.
  • Dolen Cymru’s stand at the National Eisteddfod at Mold wins best display in the field.
1992. Head of humanities at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, Glyn Owen visits Lesotho to promote educational links; featured in the Daily Post.
  • Merched y Wawr call for the organisation of a sponsored knit, where the funds will go towards helping women in Lesotho through sending sewing machines and other items.
  • Dolen Cymru and Skillshare Africa cooperate to benefit Lesotho in publicising opportunities for volunteers to work in Lesotho.
  • Anglesey’s local government sponsor the education of two boys from the Mafeteng region for five years.
  • Refiloe Mofolo, Co-ordinator for Early Childhood Education in Lesotho, visits nursery schools in Wales.
  • Lesotho Homemakers receive a Landrover from the Wales Young Farmers’ Clubs.
  • The Chairman of Dolen’s Schools Sub-Committee, Glyn Owen, visits Lesotho in October to boost school linking.
  • The leaders of two of Lesotho’s main church choirs spent a month in Wales to see how music was taught in Welsh schools.
  • Merched y Wawr’s ‘sponsored knit’ campaign raises £13,000 to send hand-operated sewing machines to Lesotho.
  • Mrs. Ceinwein Davies, Deputy Director of the Welsh Nursery Schools Association visits Lesotho to familiarise herself with progress in Early Childhood Education in Lesotho.
  • Mrs. L. Phachaka, an adviser on children’s ‘special needs’ to the Lesotho Ministry of Education, spends the month of April in Wales studying provision for children with disabilities.
  • Two principal chiefs from the Mafeteng district visit Anglesey in May as guests of the Borough Council’s Twinning Committee.
  • Three Lesotho Church Leaders visit Wales in May, organised by the Welsh Church Leaders and Churches Together in Wales.
  • UNA Wales invites Elliot Mohapi, Projects Officer of the Lesotho Workcamps Association, to Wales.
  • Dolen Cymru, in partnership with NEWI, appoints Sioned Harries as its first new Education Officer.
1993. Members of the Merched y Wawr with knitted blankets.
1994. The visit of Lesotho’s Minister of Health to Powys’ community hospitals, featured in the Newsletter of NHS Wales.
  • Welsh conductor and Senior BBC Music Producer Gwyn L. Williams leads music workshops in major districts of Lesotho.
  • Y Ddolen Air / Kopano Ke Gauda, a joint book of Welsh and Lesotho folk tales, are published by Merched y Wawr.
  • Five youth leaders from different churches in Lesotho visit Wales in September to meet their counterparts.
  • Dr. Raditapole, the Minister of Health for Lesotho, visits the Powys Health Care NHS Trust to reinforce medical links.
  • Student Elin Haf Davies visits Lesotho in September to start an assignment with the Lesotho Save The Children Fund.
  • Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod receive an application from the Maseru Youth Choir to compete.
  • Dr. Heather Snidle and Father Paul Kinsey visit Lesotho to assess what care and educational needs had arisen from the issue of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa.
  • T’sabo Patrick Pelea, an officer of the Lesotho Workcamps Association, visits Wales to help disadvantaged Welsh children enjoy a seaside holiday.
1995. Members of the Maseru Vocal Waves at the Llangollen Eisteddfod; featured in the Western Mail.
  • Dr. Clowes and his wife visit Lesotho in March to celebrate Dolen Cymru’s tenth-year anniversary.
  • A work pack about family and rural life in Lesotho is distributed throughout primary schools in Lesotho.
  • A leading youth choir in Lesotho, the Maseru Vocal Waves, begin their tour in Wales with a performance at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
  • Lesotho High Commissioner Kenneth Tsekoa visits Cardiff and attends the National Eisteddfod to mark the link’s ten-year anniversary.
  • The National Council of Merched y Wawr votes to donate £13,00 to aid a new Vocational Training Centre by their sister organisation in Lesotho.
  • Dr. Heather Snidle and Rev. David Yeoman head workshops to train church-based groups in the care for people with HIV/AIDS.
1995. Dolen Cymru’s ten-year anniversary of its unique link featured in the Western Mail.

Dolen Cymru today: looking to the 40th Anniversary and beyond

Dolen Cymru have gone from strength to strength, and the human experience of participating in people-to-people links with Lesotho has shaped the minds and world outlook of multiple generations of Welsh and Basutho participants.

View, contribute and get involved with the link’s ongoing work today via the Dolen Cymru website.

Written by WCIA Archives Placement Khai nor Shahmir and edited by WCIA Heritage Advisor Craig Owen.