Celebrating the people of North Wales who are supporting their local communities
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Amidst all the sadness and chaos that the outbreak of Covid-19 has brought, it has been amazing to see the shows of kindness and generosity across the region. In North Wales, a number of individuals, businesses and charities have gone above and beyond to support their communities, so here we shine a light on some of them and say a big THANK YOU!
Steve Morgan CBE is perhaps best-known for being the founder of the construction giant Redrow. He was born in Liverpool but moved to Colwyn Bay as a teenager, fondly referring to himself as an ‘adopted Welshman’, and now he’s taking huge steps to give back to the local community. In 2001 he set up the Steve Morgan Foundation, which works to support disadvantaged and under-privileged areas across North Wales, Cheshire and Merseyside, and in the 19 years since, the foundation has raised a staggering £300 million in assets. They work with a huge number of different charities, and previous projects include providing funding for Smiley Buses, as well as the likes of Teach First, Maggie’s, WellChild Flintshire, The Cheshire Down’s Syndrome Group and support for rape and sexual abuse victims.
In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the Foundation has launched an emergency hardship fund which aims to support the work of charities and not-for-profit companies in their remit area. They have pledged to donate up to £1 million every week for an initial 12 weeks,totalling £12 million, and charities are invited to get in touch to apply for this funding. “When all this kicked off, in the space of the first two or three days the office had around 100 calls from different charities to say that they were in trouble and needed help,” Steve explains. “A lot of charities live on short leading times for their reserves, and they could see that they were going to run out of money.” With future events cancelled, these charities were suddenly left with no means of raising vital funds, a situation which was made even worse by the fact that often their work was being needed now more than ever – so, the fund seemed like the best way to support them. “It’s only a week since we announced this but to date we’ve had 853 enquiries, 370 applications are underway, we’ve received back 136, and we’ve had £3.3 million requested. We’ve approved 45 so far and that adds up to around £400,000 already. But we’re only in the first week,” Steve adds. In just two weeks since launching the fund, £2.1 million had already been pledged.
Apply to the fund online here
2 Wish Upon a Star is one of Wales’ many incredible charities, and the team here work to support recently bereaved families who have lost a child or young person suddenly. It was set up by Rhian Mannings MBE, who tragically lost both her one–year-old son and her husband within days of each-other. “When we lost George suddenly, it became clear very quickly that there was nothing to support families who lost children suddenly and in traumatic circumstances. Five days after my son died, my husband Paul took his own life and we still didn’t have any support, and I had a two and a three-year-old at that time too,” Rhian reflects. “So, I started to raise money for our local community and that was how it began.”
Today the charity offers a huge range of support, including ensuring that every emergency department in Wales has a suitable bereavement room for families, ensuring that bereavement boxes are available for families at each of these hospitals, ensuring that immediate bereavement support is available for all suddenly bereaved families, providing a professional counselling service, providing support to individuals who witness the sudden and traumatic death of a child or young adult and providing staff support and training.
The team are working hard to ensure that their vital support can continue during this difficult time: face-to-face meetings with families are no longer possible, but they are still offering help via text, email and Skype. Rhian explains that they are working with a team of counsellors to prevent people from feeling isolated, and they’re also running initiatives such as a virtual coffee morning and buddying up parents so that they can support each-other. People can get in touch via any of the numbers on their website or Facebook page. “It’s also about people’s belief in us; we don’t want them to forget about us because we are still supporting families every day. […] For me personally, to lock the door on the charity was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Rhian says. “But I’m blessed with an incredible team, and it’s all about flexibility, working together and making sure we come out of it stronger than we went in.”
2 Wish Upon a Star are mainly self-funded, and with fundraisers cancelled, donations are needed more than ever. There is a ‘donate’ button on their website and they will also soon be looking for volunteers to raise awareness of their work in North Wales, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Menter Môn are a not-for-profit social enterprise, responding to the challenges faced by people living in rural Wales; since their beginnings in 1995, they have carried out and facilitated a huge range of projects, covering everything from teaching new skills to conservation and heritage work. “A lot of our work is seeking to add value to resources for the benefit of the local area, whether that’s the coastal path or the Welsh language or the tide or local products. It’s all about trying to harness what makes the area so unique,” explains Dafydd Gruffydd, the social enterprise’s Managing Director. Recent initiatives include Morlais, a scheme to develop the Tidal Energy industry in Anglesey, and Môn Larder, a local food and drink hub bringing together regional producers and processors.
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Now, their work in support of local communities is needed more than ever, and Dafydd explains that they were quick to spring into action. “One of our first jobs was to do with the fact that there was so much information flying around out there, and it was about thinking how we can harness some of it and present it in an accessible format,” Dafydd says. “For example, we had so many restaurants and cafes offering take-aways or food deliveries, so we collected that information and put it all onto a Google map. [...] Also, on Anglesey, we plotted the co-ordinators of the community volunteers for each ward so you can just click on one and find their details, and then speak to them if you are concerned about somebody in the area.” Among many other things, Menter Môn have also set up a genius scheme whereby people can donate their holiday lets to frontline staff who are urgently in need or temporary accommodation and Menter Môn will then pay for the deep clean at the end. They’re also working to get food to local care homes who can’t get their usual supermarket deliveries.
Find out more on their website.
School might be out for the time being, but life has continued at Coleg Cambria, where the resident animals still need regular care. At their Northop and Llysfasi sites, lecturers, practitioners and animal technicians have been out in all weathers to feed, maintain and observe more than 200 different types of animal, including birds, fish, mammals, rodents and poultry, and the arrival of spring means that things are full-steam ahead.
“This is a particularly busy time,” explains Wendy Gacem, the Animal Centre Manager. “We have the first of the Hill Radnor lambs making an appearance right now and in the coming weeks our Castlemilk Moorit sheep are giving birth.” Northop is also home to the Bagot Goat, which is classed as vulnerable by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, the resident Clownfish have recently laid a batch of eggs, and the Gargoyle Geckos are due to hatch in the coming days too.
“It’s a tragic and unparalleled time for this country, and the whole world, but obviously the animals are oblivious to that. It also means we can try and carry on a much as possible, while of course staying a safe distance from each-other and following the strict guidelines put in place,” says Wendy. “Hopefully in the near future we can share these incredible new arrivals with the students and public, but for now we will remain here and care for our amazing animals.”
The different businesses within the glorious Hawarden Estate have been quick to rally together to ensure that they can continue supporting their local community. Although the Farm Shop is now closed to the public, the local pub, The Glynne Arms, has been transformed into an essential supplies shop. Here you can find everything from home-made bread to fresh fruit and veg, eggs, milk, cheese, butter and meat from the Hawarden Estate Farm Shop butchery, as well as treats such as brownies and quiches cooked by the pub’s chef. Each day they share a list of available items on their Facebook page, and you can then come and collect your goods from the pub without the need for any contact.
Meanwhile, James Sills, who usually runs the pub choir, has embraced the power of technology and set up a virtual choir instead. The Sofa Singers is a free and weekly online event that brings together people from far and wide for 45-minutes of simultaneous singing – you can register via Eventbrite, and Zoom is then used to bring people together. Afterwards, there’s a tea break followed by some open floor slots.
The estate’s annual festival, The Good Life Experience, has responded to the crisis by setting up their ‘50/50 initiative’. This is where they work with 50 freelancers over a period of 50 days on 50 fun, interesting and paid projects. They are encouraging freelancers to get in touch to pitch an idea – find out more here.
The Hawarden Post Office Village Store is another shining star within the local community. Mark and his team of Sue, Ellen and Jan are busy delivering newspapers to locals across Hawarden and other nearby areas, to ensure that the elderly and those in self-isolation can continue to have everything they need. “We started off by saying ‘don’t come out, we’ll drop your newspaper and your milk,’ and then it snowballed,” Mark recalls. “I’m now delivering ¾ of my papers each day to residents.” They’re also offering a free delivery service of other essential supplies, including bread and fresh fruit and vegetables, and will pick up any parcels and post that need delivering too. “I’m getting to know people and their families really well,” Mark adds. “We’ve had people who live 200 miles away ring us up and say ‘I live in London, my mum is 78, is there any way you can help?’.” It means working incredibly long days, but Mark and his wonderful team are taking it all in their stride. You can find out more on their Facebook page, or by calling or emailing the shop.
And all of the other local newsagents, Post Offices, corner shops and pet shops that are continuing to make sure their communities have everything they need...
….such as Broadway Premier News and Convenience in Penrhyn Bay, who are working round the clock to keep the shelves stocked. “We’ve had so many kind offers from volunteers who’d love to help out with deliveries (including some over-kind over 70s), we’re quite overwhelmed by the community spirit,” they said. “We’re offering home deliveries within a 4-mile radius to help out as many people as possible.”
Thanks to these individuals, charities and businesses, the rural communities in North Wales can continue to receive the help and support they need. Please get in touch if you know of any others who are doing similar work.