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HBTSR public meeting April 2024

On 15th April, Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees {HBTSR} held an Open Public meeting to celebrate the support given in 2023 , to thank many supporters and to learn about the life of an Afghan woman and how Wales aspires to be a Nation of Sanctuary.
At 6,30 St Mary’s Church in Brecon was full and Father Mark Clavier who had kindly agreed to host the event welcomed everyone.
Margaret Blake chaired the meeting and introduced speakers.



The first speaker was Sian Summers-Rees, Chair of City of Sanctuary, a National organisation set up in 2005 in Sheffield. HBTSR joined City of Sanctuary in 2015 and helped to show a way for other rural areas without many people seeking sanctuary to be able to show welcome and support. Sian outlined the history and how the concept of Wales as a Nation of Sanctuary had arisen. The aim is that Wales will be a place that wherever people seeking sanctuary go, they are met with welcome, understanding and celebration of their unique contribution to the rich tapestry of Welsh life.  Welsh people believe in fair treatment of every person, especially those who are most marginalised and struggle to  meet their basic needs.

A Nation of Sanctuary will work to ensure a fairer future which enables equitable access to services to support every individual to thrive. Sian paid compliments to HBTSR for the work done in support  and sharing our beautiful countryside and friendly people with people seeking sanctuary.








Sian then helped to introduce Sweeta and to encourage her to talk about her life, Sweeta is an award winning Afghan born businesswoman who was forced to seek sanctuary in the UK after a film made about her was shown and publicised by the British Embassy. As a businesswoman in Afghanistan, she won The UK Ambassador to Afghanistan Award for Business activities as an Afghan woman, Peace through Business program Award and Thunderbird Global Management Ten Thousand Women. All these awards were for excellence in business as the founder of Hariwa Jewellery Company and Jalvaghadarchin Coffee shop for women. Both of these businesses had a social outreach arm which empowered women.Sadly Sweeta was forced to seek asylum in the UK in 2017 after publicity about the film showed her without a headscarf and life in Afghanistan become untenable.

. She explained how she was initially very glad to be in Swansea and anticipated that her family would be able to join her within months. She learnt English, was accepted onto a law degree course and a fast track Welsh government business course. However red tape and the pandemic held up her family who had to remain in hiding for 5 years. Eagerly expecting the family to be able to join her, she arranged for them to move to Pakistan  where they were marginally safer but long delays took their toll on all concerned.

Sweeta explained how the support of friends in Swansea and in HBTSR had helped her to keep going when it seemed possible that her family would not survive, let alone be able to join her.
This is a story with a happy end however. Sweeta’s children joined her in 2023 and 2 months ago her mother and three sisters were also able to come to Swansea. Sweeta’s mother Saleha, then spoke briefly thanking everyone for their help and saying how although she had tried to look after the children they really needed their mother. At this stage most of the audience were seen to need tissues. The final very happy news is that Sweeta is now engaged to her partner Ali who helped her to survive the years without family and work ceaselessly towards reunification.











Ailsa then outlined the achievements of HBTSR in 2023 and mentioned that nothing could be achieved without the support of very many people. Some of the many were then presented with certificates of thanks. The list can be seen here.





Margaret then thanked all for coming and especially our speakers.A retiring collection was made to support a Ukrainian Easter gathering for learning disability children in a town in Ukraine supported by one of the  local Brecon Ukrainian families.





Thanks to Father Mark for loan of the church for the event, To the Tower cafe for allowing us to use their facilities , To Melrose, Gaynor and Lynne for providing drinks and to many others who helped to set up and tidy away. Special mention must be made of Phil of TimeOut who loaned us a screen and arrived in time to set up a projector when ours didn’t synch with the laptop… Disaster averted!

Interestingly three of  the nine HBTSR current trustees found out about the group from previous public meetings!



Ailsa in a reflective moment