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Carmarthen success story – ‘people don’t have a best before date’

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The National Botanic Gardens of Wales in Carmarthenshire is showing its support for a Welsh Government campaign designed to challenge stereotypes and encourage employers to build a multigenerational workforce across Wales.

By 2022, one in three people of working age in Wales will be age 50 and over . Despite this, 28% of people aged 50-64 years in the UK are not actually in work .

The ‘People Don’t Have a Best Before Date’ campaign highlights the valuable contribution older workers bring to businesses across Wales as well as the wider economy, while also encouraging employers to recruit, retain and train their employees who are over the age of 50.

The National Botanic Garden of Wales is a research and conservation centre of excellence, and home to some of the rarest plants in the world, including some which only grow in Wales.

Paul Smith, 55, joined the team at the National Botanic Garden of Wales after retiring as a teacher and took on the role of running the organisation’s education programme. Paul welcomes 12,000 different school children to the garden each year and gives lessons with no limits on imagination, on subjects as diverse as meteorite hunting, campfire mindfulness and pirate ship building.

Botanic Garden Director Huw Francis says: “Paul’s passion and enthusiasm when teaching the children is contagious. He sees the school’s education programme as an incredible opportunity to enthuse children about science and the natural world and that really comes through when he is delivering the lessons. He makes them fun and engaging and the children come away excited about what they have learned.

“The skills that Paul and his team of educators and former teachers bring to their work are skills that come with age and experience in schools across the country. They are adaptable and creative in their thinking and have made our education programme exciting with lessons spilling over into the grounds to help spark the imagination of children and adults.

Paul says: “I find complete joy in sharing what we have here.
I think what is exciting is we have been able to develop ideas without the boundaries of a school timetable. We create bespoke packages to suit the schools and their specific group of pupils, as well as packages we can use in outreach when we go into the community to share ideas. This includes outdoor and out-of-the-box ideas for learning to support the Welsh Government’s new creative curriculum.”

Paul’s job is, he says, packed to the brim with favourite moments, including bringing his previous experience in schools for children with special needs, and seeing their pleasure in the Garden as they discover alternative ways to learn. Or the sessions his team have developed for adults with brain injuries, sessions that he says, “are socially and physically absolutely brilliant for them”. His team is currently looking at other gaps in support they might be able to fill, including group activities for young people with eating disorders and group support for their parents.

“The opportunities are endless,” he says, before hopping back on his bike and cycling home over the mountains after another momentous day at work.

Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates, said: “For business in Wales, there is an overwhelming case for investing in the skills of their workforce, especially those aged 50 and over who make a significant contribution to our economy.

“In only two years’ time, it’s likely one in three workers in Wales will be aged 50 and over. Businesses have a great opportunity to benefit from their skills, knowledge and experience to pass on to younger people entering the workplace.

“This campaign challenges ageist stereotypes about older workers and shines a light on the need for Welsh businesses to take action when it comes to future-proofing their workforce and celebrating the difference employees 50 and over make. This is particularly the case for SMEs, for whom losing the valuable skills and experience of older workers can have much more of an impact.

“Employers need to assess, monitor and consider the needs of their more experienced workers, as the role they play in businesses across Wales is critical to the success and prosperity of the Welsh economy.”

The Welsh Government has partnered with the Learning and Work Institute, Business in the Community (BITC) Cymru, the Older People’s Commission, Ageing Well in Wales, the Federation for Small Businesses and Chwarae Teg on this campaign to challenge stereotypes, demonstrate the value of a multi-generational workforce and encourage employers to invest in skills throughout their employees’ working lives.

For employers looking for more information on how they can invest in the skills of their older workers, the Welsh Government’s Skills Gateway for Business – https://businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway/ has a range of advice and guidance.

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Community

Carmarthenshire woman has artwork displayed in virtual gallery

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On Monday, March 1 Rays of Sunshine, a children’s charity that brightens the lives of seriously ill children across the UK by granting their wishes and providing ongoing support, launched a stunning virtual children’s art gallery that displays bespoke artwork created by children who are all living with a serious or life-limiting illness. One of the people displaying their artwork is Sophie, aged 25, from Carmarthenshire, Wales. 

Created alongside Moyosa Media, award winners in digital technology, the gallery aims to celebrate the magical bond between Rays of Sunshine and its beneficiaries, in addition to recognising the charity’s patrons and supporters. Each child has depicted their own interpretation of the theme ‘sunshine, happiness and laughter’ and many of the pieces of art were created during group creative workshops with Rays of Sunshine. 

Sophie now aged 25, has a rare and complex form of Brittle Diabetes, Functional Neurological Disorder, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Non-Epileptic Seizure Disorder and Hypermobility Syndrome. She endures a range of symptoms daily, including seizures, joint dislocations, nausea and require lots of medication. 

In 2010, Rays of Sunshine granted Sophie’s greatest wish to visit the set of BBC One’s drama Holby City. When Sophie’s health deteriorated, Sophie was offered another wish in 2012 and got to sing with popular boyband, JLS, at the Royal Albert Hall. Since then, Sophie has been heavily involved with the charity as a Wish Ambassador, where she has co-ordinated 18 wishes to date. Her artwork ‘Bring them fun’ will be displayed in the gallery and is inspired by one of her favourite memories with Rays of Sunshine, singing with the charity’s choir at Royal Albert Hall in 2014.

Lindsey Bennister, Chief Executive Officer of Rays of Sunshine, comments:  

“We’re really excited to be launching the Rays of Sunshine Children’s Art Gallery filled with wonderful artwork by our beneficiaries. Every piece on display was created by a child living with a serious or life-limiting illness and the result is a collection of art as unique and inspiring as the children themselves. During the pandemic, Rays of Sunshine has been committed to continuing to support families across the UK, and provide joy and hope, and this gallery is no exception. Bringing together the children and families via virtual art sessions has resulted in some incredible pieces of art, which we are very proud to display. We’re incredibly grateful and thankful to everyone who made this possible, including our generous sponsors, Moyosa Media and, of course, all our very talented artists.”

The Rays of Sunshine Children’s Art Gallery is live from Monday 1st March 2021 here:  https://raysofsunshine.org.uk/childrens-art-gallery/

Rays of Sunshine Children’s Charity was formed in 2003 to brighten the lives of seriously ill children and young people and their families across the UK by granting wishes and providing ongoing support in hospital and within the community. For more information, or ways to support, please visit www.raysofsunshine.org.uk.

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Care home residents treated to St David’s Day online concert

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RESIDENTS in care homes across Carmarthenshire are being treated to a free virtual St David’s Day concert.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s theatres have partnered with Loud Applause Productions to produce the online event which will showcase a wealth of Welsh talent on Monday March 1 at 7pm. It will also be free to care home residents in Pembrokeshire.

This is the second time Carmarthenshire Theatres have arranged for care homes in the two counties to access a digital show, with every care home receiving a free copy of a Christmas concert, ‘The West End at Christmas’ over the last festive period.

Filmed at The Ffwrnes Theatre Llanelli, the St David’s Day celebration is a digital 44-minute concert which all audiences can enjoy at home.

It will be presented bilingually by local broadcaster and author, Alun Gibbard and features some traditional Welsh songs that everyone will recognise and enjoy including Ar Hyd Y Nos as well as popular songs from musicals like Bring Him Home from ‘Les Misérables’.

There will be performances from the official harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales, Alis Huws, also a rising star in the world of musical theatre, singer Samuel Wyn-Morris, who’s most recently been performing in the West End production of ‘Les Misérables’.

Carmarthenshire based actor, Julian Lewis Jones, who has appeared in Hollywood film Invictus and is a regular face in the Sky TV series, Stella, will be the guest reader.

The concert will also feature performances from two young local singers, Osian Clarke and Lauren Fisher, both members of the Loud Applause Rising Stars programme.

Last year the council donated over 100 iPads to its care homes so that residents could keep in contact with their loved ones throughout lockdown.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s executive board member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism said: “We are delighted to be able to offer all our care home residents a free viewing of our St David’s Day online concert. This concert promises to be a very exciting one with a wealth of local talent taking part. The Christmas online event was very popular and we hope that as many people as possible will join us from home for this one and show their support for our local artists.”

Tickets for the concert are on also on sale to the public via Carmarthenshire Theatre’s website www.theatrausirgar.co.uk Those purchasing a ticket will receive a direct link to watch the show which will be streamed on the theatre’s website. The concert will be available to view via the link for three weeks following the release. Tickets are priced at £5 per household.

To see the Carmarthenshire Theatre programmes of digital shows visit their website.

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Council recognised for help to food banks

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Carmarthenshire County Council has been recognised nationally after gifting over £42,000 in food vouchers to foodbanks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Egni Sir Gâr Cyfyngedig won a community award in the British Renewable Energy (REA) Awards 2020 after distributing the vouchers to 14 food banks across the county out of income generated from rooftop solar panels.

The REA judging panel said: “They have responded very generously compared to their income stream. What a remarkable and impactful immediate response to a crisis. If only other organisations followed their lead.”

The donation represents a value of approximately £70,000 for every mega-watt of solar installed, which is the highest single payment per megawatt of installed solar for any community benefit society, commercial solar farm or portfolio in the UK.

The council’s executive board member for resources and director of Egni Sir Gar, Cllr David Jenkins, said: “The last year more than ever before people are having to use the foodbanks to put food on their table so we didn’t hesitate to repurpose these funds when they became available to help more families that are struggling and cannot afford the essentials of life.”

Egni Sir Gâr Cyfyngedig is an energy community benefit society established by Carmarthenshire County Council in 2015. Since then it has installed 16 rooftop solar on council owned buildings. With a total capacity installed of 636 kWp (kilowatt peak), the electricity generated by these sites over the last 12 months equates to the equivalent of over 290 tonnes of CO2e offset which contributes towards the council’s commitment to become a net zero carbon local authority by 2030.

If you are struggling and cannot afford food, then please contact your local food bank.

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