Community spirit shines on in Wales

WITH WALES almost a week into the national fire-break lockdown, Welsh Government Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, today gave thanks to the volunteers and community groups who have given hope and help to their local areas, both recently and during the previous national lockdown.

Jane Hutt said:

“Throughout the first lockdown earlier this year, volunteers, community groups and third sector organisations worked incredibly hard to support the most vulnerable among us.

“It is fantastic to hear about the numerous inventive, creative ways that communities have found for supporting each other. Shared effort can create beautiful outcomes, and volunteering can have a huge and beneficial impact on both volunteers, and on those who are being supported. Thank you to all the amazing helpers who are and have been working in your communities, right across Wales. Please carry on doing whatever you can in your local area – it all makes a difference.”

During the first lockdown, Sara Wall from Magor, Monmouthshire, co-ordinated the Magor and Undy scrubbers.

More than 100 volunteers, aged from 6 to 92, took part in the operation. Jobs ranged from collecting and sorting materials, to cutting out patterns, to sewing on buttons, to making calls to determine the numbers needed, and last but not least drivers to deliver the completed scrubs.

Scrubs and equipment were donated to (among others) hospitals, hospices, prisons, GP surgeries, occupational health therapists, young people’s residential homes and care homes.

The group created more than 500 sets of scrubs, 1200+ laundry bags, and 800 ear protectors.

Sara Wall said:

“The community spirit earlier this year was amazing. When we started out, our intentions were entirely and purely to help put #scrubsonbacks. But as things went forwards it became clear that we were doing not just that but more besides: we were supporting ourselves and each other with a sense of purpose and community.

“I made real friends. For some of our sewing volunteers, the delivery person waving through the window was the only contact all day. Volunteering not only has a very real benefit for our community, but is also important to our own health and happiness. It gives us not just a sense of control, but a sense of being a part of the reality of it all.

“The local volunteers moved mountains, gave hope and help where it was lacking, and showed our heroes on the front line that their community was behind them. In a time of darkness and fear, community spirit shone out in a beacon of love. Thank you to all our helpers – you are and were amazing.

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“If anyone feels frustrated and in need of useful work to do, there is a wealth of good voluntary work that you can do, online and offline. Local volunteering groups keep track of jobs that need doing; you can join in the efforts to keep in contact with the isolated and vulnerable, and there are volunteering craft efforts online. There’s lots more that can be done, just reach out with an open mind and heart.”

Twyn Community hub, based in Twynyrodyn, near Merthyr Tydfil town centre, was awarded funding through the Welsh Government’s Voluntary Sector Emergency Fund.

Louise Goodman, project co-ordinator of the hub, said:

“We provided those who were shielding, and vulnerable and elderly people in the community, with food care packages and hot meals. We delivered prescriptions, provided a listening service through telephone and video reassurance, reached out to the isolated, and made sure we helped as many people as possible.

“A lot of people in the community have lived here since the houses were built in the 1960s. We are a community of around 7000 people, with around a third aged under 15 or over 65. We wanted to support the community, take the pressure off other services, and make sure we were here for people to turn to when they needed help.

“The funding from Welsh Government enabled us to update our equipment to reach the community more efficiently through lockdown, and operate as an emergency response hub. As a result, we were able to:

provide over 270 weekly parcels of food/ household goods, including cleaning products, toiletries, fruit, vegetables, cereals, dairy, meat, juices & breads, to households of between 1-4 people
liaise with multiple local pharmacies to collect prescriptions for those who were shielding
create an information and activity booklet for adults which was given to hundreds of households
provide weekly live and pre-recorded links to online exercise sessions and healthy eating recipes with the help of a local NHS dietician
provide (at peak) 182 hot meals daily to elderly and vulnerable people (over 900 meals a week)
recruit volunteers to deliver to the community
answer hundreds of calls a week from concerned neighbours and vulnerable people suffering from a myriad of conditions
refer people to other organisations operating inside and outside the borough for help with specific queries
work with organisations to link people to free online courses
create an activity booklet for the young people of the community; hold online youth chat sessions via zoom; create science activity videos; send out regular activity packs delivered by volunteers which included seeds for planting, baking bags, colouring and craft equipment, personal care packages etc
“We know that our work had a huge impact on the community. We eased the burden on pharmacies. Our online fitness and healthy eating posts helped people stay fit and active, and our community became more connected than ever, with neighbours helping and referring local people, and making sure that no-one went without, regardless of their home location or circumstances. We encouraged new learning, including mindfulness, not only online but also within our activity booklet for those without internet.

“The community feedback we’ve received has helped us to tailor future activities to meet the needs of as many people as possible. It has been incredibly moving to be a part of this community support group. To have someone tell you that it lifts their spirits to know they are being thought about, makes every second worthwhile.”

Jane Hutt concluded:

“Please continue to support your communities through volunteering, in whatever way suits you best. Just remember to stay safe, stay local, and follow Welsh Government’s Coronavirus guidelines. Thank you all for your generosity of spirit and kindness. Together, we will keep Wales safe.”

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