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Four friends helped by new Carmarthenshire housing initiative

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A GROUP of friends from Bristol who wanted to support each other through varying physical and mental health issues sold up and moved nearly 100 miles away to a small holding in Llandybie, Carmarthenshire.

The four friends – Roz, Heather, Chris and Jo – found that they were unable to support each other adequately while living in different areas across Bristol. They decided to move their lives, and for one of them their career, so that they could be closer together and are now living together in a terraced house in Ammanford while working on the smallholding.

Collectively, they formed the MeddwlCoed co-operative, and bought fifty acres of marginal land, on which they hope, via the One Planet Development scheme, to create a self-sustaining, community-housing initiative which will provide affordable housing and benefit the wider community through courses, workshops and retreats.

Roz Clarke, who has fibromyalgia, explained that living in Bristol wasn’t working for the group: “We used to travel back and forth through Bristol to look after each other and help when it was needed, but it wasn’t easy. It was in around 2016 that we started chatting about how difficult it was becoming, and we thought that living closer together would make it easier to support each other.

“As a group, we also had similar views on living sustainably but were finding it difficult to make this a reality in Bristol so in April last year we upped sticks and moved to Carmarthenshire. Four of us now live together in our home in Ammanford and we juggle the small holding with other work, and our medical conditions.”

Roz added that they had been welcomed with open arms by the local community: “We were worried that people would think we were raving hippies, but everyone has been so welcoming, helping us out in lots of ways and local farmers have been chatting to us about some of our initiatives such as fossil fuel free gardening and not deep ploughing on the farm.

“Now we’d like to encourage others to get involved in what we are doing at MeddwlCoed. We are planning a big tree planting event and would love people to come along and support and we can then chat to them about the joys of living in a nurturing and supportive co-housing project such as ours.”

Meddwl Coed is just one of a large movement of co-operative and community-led housing schemes in Wales that are being championed by the Wales Co-operative Centre with its Communities Creating Homes programme. The programme is funded by the Nationwide Foundation and Welsh Government.

Recent research commissioned by the Wales Co-operative Centre found that those living in community-led housing felt less isolated as they were surrounded by a supportive network, had improved mental health and wellbeing and had further developed their skills set as well as gaining improved levels of confidence.

Jocelle Lovell, Communities Creating Homes programme manager for the Wales Co-operative Centre, said: “MeddwlCoed is the epitome of a supportive and nurturing co-housing project, which was borne out of a real need for those involved. The fact that they are now looking for people to network with who share the same interests and concerns to partner with to deliver mutually beneficial outcomes from the land is wonderful and we wholeheartedly support them.

“Wales is facing a housing crisis, with many people not able to afford a home to buy or to rent. The problem isn’t going away, so we need new and creative ways to work around it – community-led housing schemes are an exciting development that solves the affordability problem and helps to create strong, like-minded communities.”

Jocelle added: “Anyone who feels isolated, lonely or is struggling in their current accommodation should consider developing something similar to MeddwlCoed. A place where people will be able to live in peace, but with help and support on hand should they need it. It’s the perfect antidote to today’s remote society.”

Wales Co-operative Centre has been supporting and championing the growth of community-led housing since 2012, and in April this year, it launched its Communities Creating Homes programme which aims to stimulate demand for co-operative and community-led housing throughout Wales.

With more than 30 schemes already in place across Wales, communities can be created for various purposes and shared visions. Where some schemes have been created to make housing more affordable for residents, others have been developed for people who want improved eco-friendly lifestyles.

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Community

Youth Support Service recognised

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL YOUTH SUPPORT SERVICE has been awarded the National Participation Charter for Children and Young People.

The service which supports young people aged 8-25 across Carmarthenshire reach their full personal, social and educational potential was given the accreditation for its commitment to the participation standards.

The National Children and Young People’s Participation Standards are a tool to help measure the process of children and young people’s participation in the work undertaken by a service supporting young people. And that they are working in line with the National Participation Standards which are underpinned by the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

The service also provides support and opportunities to access employment, education or training for ages 16-25.

The council’s director of education and children services, Gareth Morgans, said: “This is an essential and exciting part of our journey as a service in realising our vision of being a service that provides a robust range of support from open access to specialised support, enabling children, young people and young adults from 8-25 years of age to access what they need, when and where they need it so that they can reach their full personal, social and educational potential.

“The voice of children and young people is important to us as a service and being awarded the Charter demonstrates our strong commitment to children and young people’s participation within our work in Carmarthenshire.

“The Charter will allow us to use the National Participation Standards as a tool to measure the process of the participation of children and young people in decision making processes within our local authority. It will also help us to identify current areas of good practice, as well as areas for development.”

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Community

Carmarthenshire County Council Chair’s charity swim

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THE CHAIR of Carmarthenshire County Council has fulfilled his promise to do a seaside swim to raise money for his two charities.

Cllr Ieuan Davies had vowed to take part in the traditional Walrus Dip at Cefn Sidan beach on Boxing Day, but the event was cancelled due to Covid restrictions.

Instead, Cllr Davies took to the waves at Pendine beach during a chilly Easter weekend.

Cllr Davies is fundraising for two charities close to his heart, Prostate Cancer and St Peter’s Church in Llanybydder. 

As well as the swim, he is also undertaking a sponsored walk and has so far walked over 60 miles.

“It has been a difficult year for so many people and I have deeply regretted being unable to undertake the usual duties of Chair, meeting as many Carmarthenshire residents and groups as possible over the year.  I am so pleased to have been able to do a seaside swim which is an important date in the civic calendar,” said Cllr Davies.

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Community

Easter Cheer at the Food Hub

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RED DOT FINANCIAL PLANNING is bringing seasonal cheer to the recipients of food parcels from the Llandeilo Food Hub.

Stephanie Jones and Dyfed Lloyd-Jones brought bags full of Easter Chocolates to be given to the families currently looked after by the Food Hub.

“Our office is just around the corner and we’ve been meaning to contribute to the community for a while,” said Stephanie. “A recent Facebook post about the food hub reminded me. Seeing the great set up we know we will be back.”

Volunteers Urszula Haines and Christoph Fischer received the donation on behalf of the Food Hub.

“It’s great that the families get to enjoy that bit of seasonal luxury and we can’t thank our donors enough,” said Urszula.

Donations for the Food Hub can be dropped off at the Llandeilo Rugby Club every day between 2 and 4 pm. For deliveries out of hours contact LlandeiloCovid19@mail.com

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