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Pembroke Christians send aid to Croatia

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The Kalaš family: Now have a home thanks to Omri and Betty Arnold

The Kalaš family: Now have a home thanks to Omri and Betty Arnold

RETURNING from a two week visit to Croatia, which was organised to celebrate 25 years of links with Croatian churches, Pastor Rob James of Westgate Chapel in Pembroke said: “People say a week is a long time in politics but, as far as I am concerned, a quarter of a century is but a fleeting moment when it comes to Christian fellowship.

“I first got involved with Croatian Baptists when civil war broke out in 1991 and a close friend felt he ought to take humanitarian aid which could be distributed through their newly formed organisation ‘My Neighbour’.

“It has proved to be a deeply humbling and hugely inspiring experience.

“We have built long lasting and very deep friendships with our Christian brothers and sisters and we can look back with a sense of wonder when we think about the staggering amount of aid we have been able to take there over the years.”

“It was particularly moving to meet up with two members of the Kalaš family, former Bosnian refugees who now have a new home thanks, not least, to Omri and Betty Arnold of Pembroke who simply could not rest until they had done something to help them.”

The current trip was no humanitarian mission, explained Rob: “More than 70 of us travelled by coach to Rijeka. We wanted to celebrate our 25 years of partnership in the new pastoral centre currently being built by the local Baptist Church.

“We have been intimately involved in this project from the beginning. The foundation stone was laid in 2004 and we are amazed when we think of the progress that this small group of people has made. The new building (which has a roof shaped like praying hands) is in use, even if not completed, and has cost more than 1m euros to date.

“They have raised much of the cash themselves – although they have hugely encouraged by two amazing donations in particular. A German businessman gave a gift of half a million euros and even their bank gave them a further 100,000 euros to further the work. As I see it, their story is both a testimony to their commitment and to God’s goodness and can’t wait to see it completed.”

Expressing his deepest thanks on behalf of Rijeka Baptist Church, Srecko Ilionsovic said: “When the war started, there were some 80 or 90 people in our church. Things were very different then and because of this the church had a very different mindset.

“The repressive communist regime did not welcome social engagement and we could do no work in the community. That meant we were closed in on ourselves. However, things began to change in the two years before the war, and when it finally broke out we seized our opportunity and began to distribute humanitarian aid. This was our biggest form of outreach and as a result of it we developed good links and great credibility within our community.

“But now we are facing new challenges. We do not need humanitarian aid in the way we did before, although there are some 400,000 unemployed in Croatia and we do some work with refugees fleeing through Bosnia. Standards have changed too. Institutions that we once helped, such as the hospital, would not be content with secondhand equipment now. This new multi-functional centre will help us continue to engage with the community, although our main goal is still that of reaching people with the message of the Christian gospel. The centre will allow us to do much more than hold Sunday Services. If it were just used for that, we would not need it at all.”

Reflecting on the past 25 years, Skewen-based team leader John Thomas said: “I’ve been planning this trip for over a year. The original intention was to be present at the official opening of the Pastoral Centre but, when we realised they would not be able to complete it in time, we turned it into a holiday and celebration of a quarter century of mission and fellowship.

“Our Christian brothers and sisters gave us a truly wonderful welcome and we had a really blessed service on the Sunday morning. It was a very, very special occasion for every one of us. We worshipped together, we sang for them and I was privileged to preach the sermon.

“We reflected on all that had happened and I was presented with a plaque to mark the occasion. The service concluded with communion, with Pastor Rob James assisting at the table. This was followed by a fantastic lunch that had to be seen to be believed.

“As for the future, we hope to be present at their official opening but, looking back on this trip, I think I am reflecting everyone’s feelings when I say it has been a wonderful time and we thank God for his travelling mercies. I was in my mid-fifties when all this started and never ever dreamed that it would end up like this, although we all know that it hasn’t ended yet.”

To everyone’s amazement, Project Nehemiah was soon helping refugee families to purchase new homes! Pembroke-based Omri Arnold, a regular member of the teams, met the Kalas family while he and his wife, Betty, were on holiday in Croatia in the summer of 2001.

Stipo Kalaš suffered from epilepsy and he had escaped from Grgići in central Bosnia with his wife and two children, Ivana and Dragan, some 10 years before. The family had lost everything – even Stipo’s medication. Relocated in Croatia, the family found themselves the only Croats in a hostel full of Muslims (their persecutors in Bosnia) and girls who had turned to prostitution.

The family of four had been forced to live in one appalling room for eight years. Confronted with this harrowing situation, Omri said that he and Betty knew they ‘had to do something’. “That hour’s experience was unforgettable,” he explained. “It made us realise without any doubt that ‘we were their neighbours’.”

On returning to Pembroke, the Arnolds shared their concerns with their neighbours and especially with the staff and pupils of Monkton School, where Omri’s daughter was the school secretary. In fact, he told them that they would love to help the family to obtain a ‘cosy little house with a garden big enough to grow their own vegetables and even keep some chickens’.

Omri was then told that there was a suitable house for sale for £7,000 and so he immediately set about raising the necessary cash. And it didn’t prove difficult. As he explained: “People sent gifts from all over South Wales. Less than six months later we were able to give the family enough money to purchase a three bedroomed home in the peaceful village of Lic.”

Omri was overwhelmed by the generosity he encountered, especially from the pupils of Monkton School. “The school is itself in a very needy area,” Omri said. “But some of the children even went without a piece of toast in their breakfast club to support the Kalaš family.”

It gave Omri an immense sense of joy to report back to the school. “We are greatly encouraged by the gifts you have given,” he told one packed school assembly. “It means the family have been able to buy a wonderful house and pay for the 5% land tax. This is really important because it means they can get passports as citizens of Croatia.

“The house has been beautifully refurbished and will allow Mr and Mrs Kalaš, their two children and their aged mother and father, to live in their own new home and garden in peaceful surroundings. What a difference to having to live in a single room of 14ft by 10ft for the rest of their lives.”

All of this had an enormous impact on Omri; years later, he still recalls standing in the kitchen of his own home reflecting on how the Kalaš family must be feeling. He said: “When there were sufficient funds to instruct Srećko to buy the home, I felt as if a physical presence took a heavy weight off my shoulders and it was replaced by a joy in my heart. It became a quiet assurance that the waiting for the money was over.

“For me, there was nothing more to be done and all my anxieties were swept away. Calmness. Finished. Oh Hallelujah.”

It reminded him of the joy he had felt when he had bought land to build his own home some 30 years before. He remembered thinking: “It’s my very own – I belong to Pembroke,” he said. “My mind instantly went to the village of Lič and to the Kalaš family.

The vision wasn’t limited to the Kalaš family because there were soon enough funds to purchase homes for the Gavrić and the Lesic family as well as help other refugee families with their varying needs.

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Business

Maintenance plant shutdown planned for Dragon LNG

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DRAGON LNG is scheduled to commence a 26-day planned maintenance shutdown at its Waterston
site from Monday May 17

The 24/7 shutdown will enable Dragon to carry out periodic maintenance and inspection, whilst
taking advantage of the opportunity to carry out some small improvement projects in a safe and controlled manner.

In addition to the normal preparations for a shutdown, which started in February 2020, Dragon
have been working extensively with Welsh Government, Public Health Wales, Pembrokeshire County Council TTP team and UK Government, including the Department for Business, Energy
and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to align already in place COVID controls in preparation for our
additional workforce from 15 key vendors to support a successful event.

During the shutdown, there will be over 140 valve overhauls, approx. 960 COVID-19 LFD | PCR
tests carried out by a specialist company and over 200 virtual site safety inductions (enhanced with
COVID site controls).

With the works taking place within the site process area, any impact to our community, including
noise and dust disturbances is not anticipated. Please do note that flaring will be undertaken
during the shutdown.

A Dragon spokesperson told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Whilst this is a major event at Dragon, the 1st shutdown since 2011, our top priority always is the safety of our team and community”.

Dragon continues to update its’ community and stakeholders on the progress of the work.

For any enquiries, please contact karen.wood@dragonlng.com / 01646 691730.

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Community

Encouraging responsible dog ownership so everyone enjoys their day at the beach

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is encouraging and promoting responsible dog ownership to ensure that we can all enjoy the County’s glorious beaches this summer.

With Covid-19 restrictions easing and lots of people expected to head to the coast, respecting one another and the natural environment will be more important than ever.

And, as a dog-friendly County, Pembrokeshire will be welcoming many four-legged friends too.

While visiting and enjoying Pembrokeshire beaches, dog lovers are asked to be mindful of some restrictions regarding their pets.

Between 1st May and 30th September dogs are not permitted on the North Beach in Tenby, or Whitesands Beach near St Davids. However, some other beaches have specific dog-free areas Designated.

Other areas indicate where dogs must be kept on leads.

The byelaws are in place so that everyone, dog owners and non-dog owners alike, can enjoy their time at the seaside.

Updated signage detailing the byelaws will be displayed on all beaches, main beach access and exit points, plus signs and flags being displayed and flown by lifeguards.

This will help pet owners to take their pets to the areas of beach designated for their enjoyment.

The signage used will be part of a wider campaign to encourage responsible behaviour while visiting and enjoying Pembrokeshire.

While engaging with members of the public, explaining the byelaws and encouraging responsible behaviour will always be the preference, there has also been a change to how the restrictions will be monitored.

Enforcement Teams will be working alongside the patrols currently undertaken to address littering and dog fouling in our communities.

Where appropriate, Fixed Penalty Notices of £75 can be issued. This can rise up to £500 if the matter were to be successfully prosecuted in court.

It is hoped that by engaging, advising and promoting the byelaws, supported by new signage, the Council can encourage people to be even more responsible dog owners.

This will result in a fun, positive experience for all beach users this Summer.

Pembrokeshire County Council Leader Cllr David Simpson, said: “Pembrokeshire can’t wait to welcome all those who have been dreaming about a walk on the beach throughout much of the past year.

“We know and understand that dogs are part of the family and taking your pets out to the beach for the day or a simple walk at the seaside is so important.

“We hope that by engaging and explaining we can promote responsible dog ownership this summer to ensure everyone can enjoy their time on our incredible coast.

“Please plan your visits and take the time to have a look at the maps of the dog free areas and other information available and we look forward to welcoming everyone, whether two legs or four, once again.”

For more information, see: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/dog-control

Maps of the dog free areas and further information can be downloaded at: https://www.visitpembrokeshire.com/downloads

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Community

Speedy Sanna’s second shot at Pembrokeshire Coast Path record

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A DETERMINED Pembrokeshire woman will reattempt to set a new record next week by running the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in the fastest time.

Sanna Duthie, 32, from Milford Haven, is aiming to become only the second person to run the whole of the 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

Sanna attempted to break the record in August last year, but after clocking off more than 63 miles she had to abandon the record attempt for her own safety, due to the horrendous weather conditions.

She hopes to complete her run in under 64 hours and 32 minutes and is using the opportunity to raise money for the Wales Air Ambulance Charity. Sanna has already smashed her fundraising target of £2,000 by raising an amazing £2,162.

The current record is held by Haverfordwest’s Richard Simpson, who completed the challenge in 2018.

As an ultra-runner, she has previously completed a 100-mile run in under 28 hours, but she is now hoping to exceed that and raise money for a charity close to her heart at the same time.

Reflecting on how she feels about re-attempting the challenge, Sanna, who likes to run ‘silly races’ said: “I am very nervous but feeling determined and strong. I’ve trained over 300 miles a month since March 2020, so I’ve done all the training I can. I would have liked to have gone to the gym, but I’ve done what I can at home. I’ve been out on difference sections of the coast path since restrictions have eased and it’s in good condition.”

Weather permitting Sanna, who is ‘overwhelmed’ with how much money she has raised, will start the challenge at 8am on Friday, 7 May at St Dogmaels and finishing in Amroth on Sunday, 9 May.

In preparation of the challenge Sanna has received a lot of support from her partner, family and friends, she said: “My dad and partner have been amazing. Making sure I’m fed after long runs and just being there. My friends have been amazing and although we haven’t been able to run together just knowing they support me helps. I’m hoping some can join me on the challenge it will be great to catch up. The chatter will be a great distraction.”

Katie Macro, Wales Air Ambulance South West Wales Community Co-ordinator, said: “We’re so grateful to Sanna for taking on this huge challenge once again. Her determination is outstanding, and she has so far raised an amazing amount for our lifesaving charity.

“Despite the horrendous weather during her last attempt she managed to run over 63 miles and only stopped the record attempt when it became unsafe to continue. Her determination is inspiring.

“On its own, it is a significant personal challenge, and we will be supporting her all the way to the finish line – and hopefully to a new record. For Sanna to choose to raise money for our lifesaving service at the same time is incredible. We are so grateful for her support and we’d like to wish her all the best. Thank you to everyone who has supported Sanna and continue to support her with her fundraiser.”

You can show your support to Sanna by donating to her Just Giving page – Sanna’s 186 miles – Pembrokeshire Coastpathhttps://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sanna-duthie2.

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