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Sanctuary in Nature

Paddy Woodworth and Muhammad Achour are the architects and leaders of Sanctuary in Nature and Heritage, a Dublin-based group aiming to create connections and sanctuary by organising outings for people in Direct Provision to experience some of the wonders in Ireland’s landscape and heritage. They sent us this report of how they managed to keep the vision alive while meetings and outings were prohibited.

Throughout the pandemic 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 good 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 information, and sending it to all the families who had come on excursions with us, or at least to all those we could still find. Meath Co Council happily agreed to this idea.

We put together a package including:

A card showing images of some of our previous outings, and expressing hopes that we could all meet again before too long.

Nooks including Michael Fewer’s Naturama, Aidan Heron’s  Ardgillan Castle Revealed(this was the last place we were able to visit, in December 2019, and that Aidan gave us a very well informed and interesting 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 added the Naturama Journal.

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.

The response to date has been very warm, and we give some examples below this message

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.

I love them and my daughter was so much in love with them. They are so lovely. Thank you a million.

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

 Thank you very much for this very valuable and special gift. I was delighted when I received this unconventional present. 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.


We are at the planning stage of our first event as the lockdown eases, in collaboration with the Rev Abigail Sines, Dean’s Vicar at Christ Church Cathedral, for Refugee Week, on Saturday 19 June.

Subject to Covid restrictions, we will be inviting friends from previous excursions to join us to:

Learn about the heritage of the Cathedral.

Visit an exhibition of artworks made by Syrian children brought all the way from Aleppo with the theme of birds titled: “Homing Pigeons, birds with wishes” in collaboration with Places of ARcture and Christchurch cathedral

Eenjoy a brown bag lunch from Our Table

Take a nature walk to the wildflower meadow at St Audoens, and down to the Liffey to look for birds.

We are also participating in a film with our partners at Sonairte National Ecology Centre, as part of the Global Citizenship Education Programme. Some of our friends from Mosney, and Muhammad, will speak about the benefits of introducing asylum seekers and migrants to Irish natural and cultural treasures.

Finally, we are delighted that we have been approached by BirdWatch Ireland’s new Birds Connect programme, and by the Heritage Council’s Wild Sanctuary project, to discuss how we share experiences and work together in future.


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