We have achieved a lot since our group started in September 2015. Please find an overview below. Thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers and supporters!
HBTSR started in early September – Ailsa and Mike were in talks with the Bishop in Brecon prior to a meeting at the Granary in Hay called by Liz Meres.
Stalls in Hay on market days, and Brecon on Saturdays brought our supporters / membership numbers up to over 100, plus £100s of donations.
The group was formally constituted at meeting in Brecon Cathedral at the end of September and various leaflets and information sheets were produced.
Public meeting: Ailsa, Lawrence, Liz and Lou attended a day arranged by City of Sanctuary Swansea and made contact with Alan and Marilyn Thomas. An open meeting was arranged for 29th October 2015 with David Meredith, Mike Gatehouse, Kirsty Williams, Matthew Dorrance, Alan Thomas and Seydou Sebaly speaking about the issues facing people seeking refuge. This also led to an increase in support.
We officially joined City of Sanctuary and with their help have a website that is actively maintained by Jo who also runs our Twitter account.
Despite our initial reservations about collecting material goods, we were requested to find items by contacts in Swansea. Thus we put out appeals for clothing, household goods, bathroom/bedding and toys and these were met with extremely generous responses. We have been very grateful to Kirsty Williams’ constituency office, Brecon Guildhall and St Mary’s Church in Hay for agreeing to act as drop off points.
Household goods & Welcome Packs: Sally coordinated the household and bathroom/ bedding collections. Hay Castle kindly allowed us to use a former shop as a lock up store that has provided an invaluable base for sorting and packing items into Welcome packs. These packs fill about 5 removal type boxes each and are designed to help families when they move into their own accommodation. Six household packs are now in Brecon Beacons National Park (BBNP) warehouse in Brecon awaiting delivery to families. We are very grateful to BBNP for making this space available.
In addition to the packs, we still have plentiful Kitchenware and bedding remaining in our store that we plan to make available via away days and by delivery to the drop in centres.
Goods to go abroad: BBNP also put us in contact with SHARP (Swansea Humanitarian Aid Response Project), a Swansea-based humanitarian aid project who are taking much needed aid to Calais and Lesbos. We have given various items to this worthy cause and seek to find more waterproofs, wellies, tents and sleeping bags for them.
Children’s toys: Margaret collected and packed the children’s toys and delivered via her Mothers’ Union links 100 wrapped presents to Swansea before Christmas. People’s generosity was such that we had enough to also take 30 presents to Cardiff Oasis centre for their Christmas party.
First Respite Day: A most successful Respite Day with 26 refugees spending the day in Hay was coordinated by Ceri and Louise. As it was wet, the day was spent mostly in Hay Castle, who very kindly allowed us to use the kitchen and other rooms. There was story-telling, music, pottery making, and lunch was a collaborative effort between the volunteers and guests. Some people went on a guided walk of Hay which was much enjoyed between showers! More information available here. This was so mutually enjoyable that a 2nd such event has been arranged by Jonathan – 24th January in Llanfihangel Talyllyn.
Cardiff delivery: Two lots of clothing and Christmas presents were delivered to Oasis Centre Cardiff. This is a large community centre that is open all week days, and not too far from a “refugee dispersal hostel”. Sean went there at lunchtime. There were over 100 people there, mostly youngish African men. One young man asked Sean if he had any shoes in the bags he was delivering.
Swansea deliveries: Ailsa, Judy, Ian, Hilda, Trevor and Julia have taken clothing and other items to Swansea or arranged drop off with Maria.
Lobbying: Ailsa and Lawrence attended ‘Sanctuary in Parliament’ Day and Mike, Margaret and Ailsa attended ‘Sanctuary in Sennedd’. Both of these events were useful for networking.
Mike, Ailsa and Rev Paul Shackerley, the Dean of Brecon, met with Chris Davies MP at his Brecon office, aiming to persuade him of the depth of humanitarian feeling among the public, and of the need for the government to increase its quota of refugees and to co-operate with the rest of Europe in providing for those who have travelled on from camps in the Middle East. There was a polite exchange of views, but little progress.
Computer equipment: Some computers, printers and a scanner were delivered to Wayne Yare of Unity in Diversity in Swansea, who wants to set up an internet café. Unfortunately, they don’t have full-time permanent premises but hope to acquire them. This may then also make it easier to deliver items to Swansea.
Food for Calais/Dunkirk: Derek, from Hay Deli, made a very successful collection (£740 plus a car load of goodies) to take to Parsnipship in Cardiff, a wholefood co-op who were travelling to Calais/Dunkirk to staff a kitchen/food stall for asylum seekers in the ‘Jungle’ camps there. We publicised this on our Facebook site and have been delighted to see that this aid was delivered.
Second ‘away day’ – the community of Llanfihangel Talyllyn hosted a fantastic ‘away day’ for refugees and asylum seekers from Swansea on the 24th of January. Around 40 people seeking refuge (7 families with 14 children and 17 young men) along with 9 volunteers from Swansea were met and welcomed by almost as many if not more local people. Highlights of the day included table football games, the knitting group, cake decorating, children playing in the play area, young men and boys (locals and visitors) skateboarding as well as the sharing of three wonderful meals. We were very grateful to Brecon Foodbank who gave us over 170 kg of food to distribute. More information can be found here.
Generous offers: the group continues to receive new offers of help almost weekly.
The number of members and volunteers is increasing steadily and currently stands at 220.
We need volunteers to help with various roles:
- to suggest ideas/ venues for away days
- to offer to coordinate a day (its fun and there is lots of help)
- to fundraise for us
- to help with collections of items as requested by Swansea
- to help with publicity
- to help to inform the public about the needs of people seeking asylum or refuge
- to help to lobby and support the council in taking refugees.