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The pandemic pause…Sanctuary in Nature and Heritage – By Paddy Woodworth

Early in  2020, our plans for an excursion to Newgrange were halted by the pandemic. During this unfortunate hiatus, which has been particularly difficult for our friends in Direct Provision, we developed a project gifting them books on nature and heritage, and instruments for nature study

Throughout 2020 we have wondered how to keep the Sanctuary in Nature & Heritage project alive, so that we can all gather again when circumstances permit.

In partnership with our friends at Sonairte National Ecology Centre, we had put in a grant proposal to Meath County Council  for €400 for transport, and that proposal was successful. But what could we do with the grant when we could not invite people to travel with us?

Finally, we came up with the idea of preparing a special gift package, relevant to both nature and heritage issues, and sending it to all the families who had come on excursions with us, or at least to all those we could reach. Meath Co Council kindly agreed to this use of their grant.

We put together a package including:

  • Michael Fewer’s Naturama book

Naturama by Michael Fewer

  • Aidan Heron’s book Ardgillan Castle Revealed, with photographs by Eamon O’Daly (Ardgillan was the last place we were able to visit, in December 2019, and Aidan gave us a very well informed and entertaining guided tour) .

A hand lens with LED light for observing flowers and insects, which we have used on our tours:

We approached both authors, and they very generously  agreed to give us the books gratis, or at very good rates. And Michael Fewer’s publisher, Gill kindly chipped in with the companion for Michael Fewer’s book,  Naturama Journal.

Summerfield Books in the UK also kindly gave us a good rate on the hand lens.

Susie and Kim at Sonairte gave us invaluable help in taking delivery of the items, and packaging them, and in late December we were able to distribute them to most of the families. A couple of deliveries, to Wicklow and Kilkenny, are still outstanding.

The response to date has been very warm:

“The card was really beautiful. Thank you so much for your beautiful gift too. I really appreciate it.” Donika, Albania

“We were really grateful for the lovely book. Truly a beautiful book with marvellous illustrations and interesting facts about the wildlife around us. I’m thankful for the magnifying glass too. It is really handy. The activity book was also a wonderful addition, especially since it arrived during lockdown. Thank you for the gifts.” Raghad, Syria

“I love them and my daughter was so much in love with them. They are so lovely. Thank you a million.” Angel, Uganda

“Grand thanks to Mr. Paddy and Mr. Mohamad Ashour for their graet efforts in helping and teaching Syrian asylum seekers about Ireland’s  nature, culture and history through the nice trips and books and gifts.” Mohamad, Syria

“What interesting books. Thanks sooo much.” Enkhbolor, Mongolia

“Thank you very much for this very valuable and special gift. I was delighted when I received this unconventional present. On this occasion, I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for your great and distinguished efforts in introducing the Irish nature and the Irish heritage. I was very pleased to get to know some very wonderful natural reserves and heritage palaces in Ireland through Sanctuary in Nurture and Heritage. You are doing a wonderful job. I truly appreciate your great efforts. All thanks to both of you.” Hashem, Syria