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Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Visitor centre welcomes people seeking sanctuary for fresh air and fun

‘The trip had been the most enjoyable and welcoming experience for me in a long time.
I can’t wait to come again.
All of you are awesome!’

The Bannau Brycheiniog Visitor Centre at Libanus is a great place for a day of fun and fresh air and the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority {BBNPA} staff worked together with HBTSR to provide a day out for a group of people currently housed in Swansea while they wait (..and wait) for their applications for asylum to be processed.
It is always shocking to realise how many countries across the world are now unsafe for many of their native inhabitants, whether because of persecution for reasons of religious, ethnic or political conflicts, or because of climate-induced starvation.
On Wednesday 23 August the group included people who had fled for one or more of these reasons from Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Russia, Honduras, Venezuela and El Salvador, in other words from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.

The ‘welcome desk’ sharing information

Initial problems with electricity delayed urn boiling but were solved

Rebecca, Deluth and Arthur planning



















The early drizzle had passed over by the time the guests arrived, and the rest of the day was warm and sunny. The Bannau Brycheiniog National Park [BBNPA]  staff had set up gazebos and laid out chairs and tables where people could relax and chat, and throughout the day there was plenty of good food provided by local volunteers and HBTSR  supporters. There were also all sorts of activities: football, volleyball and badminton for those feeling energetic; tables with equipment for painting, pottery and butterfly-crafting provided by Big Skills volunteers, all much enjoyed by the children as well as by some of the adults; and a walk led by Community Development Officer  Francesca  Bell, BBNPA and  chair Aled Edwards and other staff members out onto the lovely Mynydd Illtud common where people could enjoy the spectacular views of the mountains to the south and, closer to hand, to get a feel for the common land, including coming face to face with sheep. This was particularly exciting for the children, some of whom had never seen a sheep before.


Rebecca discussing the wonderful work done by this young artist

Nigel with his self portrait

will be used to adorn this artist’s new home

working in the Clay gazebo- free from wasps!

working on a butterfly

National park colouring resources












very skilled work was the consensus












planning the walk

Perhaps one of the less obvious benefits of these welcome days is that they provide an opportunity for those seeking sanctuary to build a wider network of contacts, to meet people who speak the same language or who share the same faith, but who come from another country. They are also important in helping people to build links with others from their own country in a safe, relaxed environment and to make new local friends. One young man from Afghanistan who has been on previous HBTSR welcome days had encouraged other Afghanis he had met in Swansea to come along so they in turn could meet others, both from Afghanistan and from elsewhere. It was good to see them all relaxing together in the fresh air and, at least for a few hours, not only enjoying themselves but also sharing their stories, stories of the horrors they had experienced but also stories of their hopes for the future.

A woman from Nigeria, who is currently studying in Swansea for a qualification in nursing and doing occasional unpaid part-time work, is  looking forward to taking on a full-time paid job once her application for asylum has been approved. Then, instead of being dependent on the government, she will be able to support herself and her two daughters while also getting the satisfaction of filling one of the all-too-many vacancies in the NHS and so helping the country she now wants to call home.

Another story from one of the visitors to Libanus was that of a man who, in his home country of El Salvador, had had a well-paid job in accountancy, financial oversight and investigating money laundering. He is now making good progress learning English and, once his application for asylum has been processed, he is looking forward to exploring what opportunities might be open to him in the UK. The day out in Libanus was special for him because he could just sit back and enjoy watching his son happily engrossed at the Big Skill clay table, overseen by Rebecca, making an elaborate figurine. There were several families from El Salvador and one little two-year old spent the day alternating between running around all over the place and then suddenly changing gear, sitting down at the art table with Big Skill volunteers Nigel and Karin, and concentrating 100% on painting self-portraits.

On this occasion, even Melrose sat down for a few minutes and decided to try her hand at painting a butterfly with Bridget!

the football teams played most of the day – sometime it became volleyball and occasionally badminton!


on top of the world?



On this day, the day before Ukrainian Independence Day , none of the locally based Ukrainian people were able to join us. Many are now in work or had other plans [ a free trip to the seaside was mentioned..] or have just found their own niche so no longer feel the need to congregate together. This is a great sign of the success of the integration and support that has been offered to Ukrainian people in Powys.

stunning views



Many of the visitors subsequently sent heart-felt messages of gratitude. Their appreciation of everything – the food, the activities, the scenery and above all,
the warm welcome – this is what makes these welcome days feel worth the effort for the volunteers, both those from the BBNPA and those from HBTSR. However the amount of enjoyment that everyone involved takes from the day cannot be underestimated. Where else would one have the chance to sample over 15 other  people’s cooking, to talk about the Taliban  with parents who escaped in time to ensure that their daughters have a future,  to understand more about  the political situation in El Salvador, to chat to friends, to strangers and have a free guided walk and so many interesting activities? . It was good to be able to welcome some of the other visitors to the Visitor centre to join with us and tell them about what we were doing and why and to see them enjoying the time spent in the company of so many extraordinary people.



This wonderful event would not have been possible without the marvellous help from so many people.

BBNPA Francesca, Helen, and others . Aled Edwards [ the chair of BBNP]

And thanks for arranging and paying for the bus!

Jackie  and Rob Thomas and other volunteers from Criw Craggy and some of their friends from Brecon Labour party.
The Big Skill, Rebecca [ clay] and her friend Deluth, Nigel and Karin [art,]  Bridget on butterflies
HBTSR team included Melrose, Lynne, Philip, Sylvia, Marion, Val, Lawrence, Ailsa, Cian ,Niall, Arthur, Jean, Lis, Claire, Ruth, Val, Tim, David, Jeff,
Super amounts of food including some from people who haven’t ever been involved  before.

Thanks from Participants.

Let me say thank you, and thank you to everyone of you.
The trip had been the most enjoyable and welcoming experience for me in a long time.
I can’t wait to come again.
All of you are awesome. Gracias
Hi there,
We really enjoyed the trip visiting nice people there. We talked to them and played some games. This visit was sure good for our mental health. The food and tea was really testy. I am grateful to the every organiser of the trip and those assisted us.Blessings
Hermoso día!! Y una experiencia siempre alegre 🫶🏻🫶🏻 bien agradecida por todo
Beautiful day!! And an always joyful experience, very grateful for everything
It was  wonderful.  Thank you very much.  I’m happy 😊 💋🤗🌹🌹🌹😊😊😊
Yeah today good day Im very happy (one of the minors)

Hello Thanu!  It’s Alejandra.

I just want to tell you that my family and I really enjoyed the trip. Lovely place, Delicious food and absolutely fantastic and lovely people. Thank you so much for inviting us. 🤗 I send you some pictures.

 Nos encanto el paseo y el lugar  todo estuvo muy bonito y los niños disfrutaron de todas las actividades y los juegos. Agradecidos con la amabilidad de todas las personas que nos recibieron y por la comida que nos dieron.
Gracias por organizar estos eventos e incluirnos.
Fue muy bonito compartir con las demás personas que fueron al viaje.
Lo disfrutamos muchísimo.
Muchas gracias
we loved the walk and the place, everything was very nice and the children enjoyed all the activities and games. Grateful for the kindness of all the people who received us and for the food they gave us. Thank you for organizing these events and including us. It was very nice to share with the other people who went on the trip. We really enjoyed it. Thank you so much

Thank you for the trip, we enjoyed a lot today, we loved the art and the nature around us, also it was plenty of food and people was very kind. Best wishes.✨✨

Thanu, I would like to say thank you so much. We really enjoyed having a great day. One of the things that I loved was seeing my daughter doing the activity that she likes the most and that is painting, she really enjoyed it. Seeing my wife have fun and seeing Santiago run everywhere was very rewarding.

As a volunteer, I really enjoyed it, I felt more confident talking to everyone in Brecon and I really appreciate the opportunity to help you.

Hermoso viaje … gracias por toda la atención y diversión. Disfrutamos mucho en familia

Beautiful trip… thanks for all the attention and fun. We enjoyed a lot as a family
 It was an amazing joyney . We’ve really happy to been there.
Thank you so much.
I love Wales, and now I love Wales stronger.

we loved the walk and the place, everything was very nice and the children enjoyed all the activities and games. Grateful for the kindness of all the people who received us and for the food they gave us. Thank you for organizing these events and including us. It was very nice to share with the other people who went on the trip. We really enjoyed it. Thank you so much