“There must be more bikes than people in Breconshire’, marvelled Mark Seymour who with Sarah Croft runs a support group for people seeking sanctuary in Newport. He was reflecting upon the immense generosity of supporters of Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees [HBTSR] who have donated over 200 bicycles in the last 3 years so that people seeking asylum can have a means of free transport to allow them to attend college and English lessons, to explore their area or even just to exercise for health and mental wellbeing.
There are about 3000 people seeking asylum in Wales having fled war and persecution and now living in multi occupancy households on just £39.63 a week. HBTSR started in 2015 with the aim of welcoming and supporting these and other impoverished people. Part of the rationale is that a society that forces vulnerable newcomers onto the margins is storing up problems for the individual and for itself .
HBTSR first started collecting donated bicycles in November 2017 inspired by Anna, Luke and Andy of Drovers Cycles and HBTSR supporters Sean O’Donoghue and Miv Smith who arranged several practical bike maintenance days in Hay when people seeking asylum in Cardiff and Newport were able to visit, learn about how to repair a bicycle and then were given one of their own. Since this time Mark in Newport has set up a weekly bike maintenance group with asylum seeking volunteers who can ensure people have road- worthy bikes,turning old, damaged bikes donated throughout Gwent and Breconshire into trusty steeds!. Initially this activity took place outside the Sanctuary centre but after several moves now use a small sheltered space in Newport city centre. In addition to helping people seeking asylum the volunteers also attend local repair cafes which aids their integration and widens their social circle.
Drovers Cycles based in Hay on Wye offering bike hire, sales, repairs and a cafe have continued to collect donated bikes and over the last 3 years at least 200 bikes of all sizes and conditions have left the Hay area to be given to people seeking asylum in the south Wales cities.
On a recent stormy Saturday Lawrence Duffy ,Treasurer of HBTSR assisted by young supporter Cian Aplin picked up 29 bicycles, donated by many generous people, stored by Drovers Cycles and Sean O"Donoghue and drove down in a van loaned by Tailored Imports. Thirteen bikes and some other goods were taken to Mark in Newport and then 12 bikes to Re-Cycle Swansea and an additional 4 bikes to Unity in Diversity Swansea, an asylum seekers support group. Boxes of kitchen items and some sewing machines were also given Unity in Diversity at the same time. Needless to say all this was done with appropriate social distancing and hand sanitising!
HBTSR are extremely glad to be able to support these activities and very grateful to Drovers Cycles, Tailored Imports [ A UK based import specialist with offices in both the UK and China, helping to ease the process of importing products into the UK] and to everyone who donated a bike or helped to store it. The bikes make a great difference to the lives of people living on less than £40 a week. ‘It’s not just a Bike, it’s a bit of independence and freedom and a way to stay healthy.’ pointed out Lawrence when he returned wet and tired on Saturday.
If you 'd like to know more about HBTSR you can look at our websitehttps://hbtsr.cityofsanctuary.org
or Facebook page or visit our stall on Hay Market on 19th November when we are trying to raise money to help buy Christmas presents for people seeking sanctuary in Newport and Swansea and to help to provide much needed items for the men in Penally camp supported by our sister group County of Sanctuary Pembrokeshire.
Cian Aplin, Gwernyfed School pupil helping to load up the bikes. More stories