It’s been a busy few weeks for Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees,[HBTSR} including an open evening, a fundraiser and a weekend of welcome.
Around 40 people were at the charity’s open evening held at St Mary’s Church in Brecon, where the keynote speakers were John Anderson and Mark Seymour.
HBTSR members met John in August when he arranged for a concert to raise funds for the charity Side By Side with Refugees. He has spent time in both Calais and Greek refugee camps and was prepared to speak about it despite finding it traumatic to recall many of the things he had seen.
He described the conditions in the Calais camp known as the 'Jungle' as grotesque, disgusting, filthy, cold and muddy but also vibrant, peaceful and civilised. This shanty town was home to about 10,000 ,mostly young men, from about 19 countries who were fed, clothed and given some care by volunteers. Now since the camp was destroyed there are many people sleeping rough in woodland or on the streets,
Mark then spoke about his experiences of running a drop-in centre in Newport. The idea for Gap Sanctuary started in 2005 when Newport became a dispersal town and some Eritrean women started to attend the church that he worships at.
In order to learn English, the women asked his wife Claire to meet for coffee and gradually the group increased in size and it became obvious that there was a need for somewhere to meet regularly for friendship, English tuition and support. In 2010 the Gap formally launched and has grown and gained grants and enough funding for two full-time workers.
That evening HBTSR were able to thank some of the many groups who have helped them in the last year including Drovers Cycles, The Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, Addyman and Booths bookshops and The Liberal Democrats offices.
The following week, HBTSR welcomed Rivers of Gold - a team based in Birmingham with a vision of helping refugees, asylum seekers, and newly arrived people to live fulfilled lives in the UK – to Llangors.
Members were on hand at the village’s youth and community centre with tea, coffee, biscuits and cake before the visitors headed out to see the lake. They returned for lunch before a visit to Talgarth Mill. Their Coordinator wrote the following day to say thanks and that 'there was a difference ; new friendships had been made through the trip yesterday, loads had been lifted and people seemed happier.'
Hay Winter Festival and the Fair-Trade market gave HBTSR members a chance to collect signatures for a petition to MP Chris Davies about allowing people seeking asylum to have the dignity of working and to sell books, raffle tickets and tell people about the group.
The weekend also saw a return to Penpont for the latest away day, welcoming visitors who are now settled in Swansea.
A children’s play area doubled as a performance space when Goffee dropped by to entertain and also as face-painting venue and there was horse-riding throughout the day, table tennis and walks.
HBTSR’s chair Margaret Blake said: “I walked with one visitor and his baby daughter who could hardly believe anyone lived in such a beautiful setting and that the house wasn’t a museum. He spoke for everyone when he expressed his gratitude at having seen such a lovely place and how much he appreciated Gavin and Vina sharing it with us.
“We were able to provide all the people who attended with bags of toiletries and a box of fresh eggs generously provided by Liz and Paul Matthews.”
A fundraising Taste of Africa dinner at eth beginning of December attended by over 50 people in Booths Bookshop Cafe allowed people to learn about Oromia, a part of Ethiopia, as well as eat superb food prepared by Rachel Giaccone and to raise over £800 to allow group activities to continue.
To round off a busy few weeks, HBTSR members were also part of a woodland minibus trip from Newport.
“The woodland group in Llangattock were very keen to allow people to share their beautiful wooded area known as Alder Carr,” Ailsa Dunn secretary to HBTSR said.
“The canal towpath was a walk that was greatly enjoyed and the barge trip across the canal was a source of amusement, enjoyment and bemusement in pretty much equal measure.
“Beaming smiles told us that the day out had been enjoyed and everyone asked if they could come again. Several said it reminded them of home, others just showed me photos they had taken of trees and sky and water and all said it was a good day and a breath of fresh air.”
Anyone wanting to know more about the group can read about it on hbtsr.org.uk.
Photos show People from Rivers of Gold feeding the ducks, Sarah from Talgarth Mill with the certificate of commendation from the open evening, The canal walk with people from Newport and Local Man Dylan Moore with Denebo at the fundraising evening.