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Marvels are ready to run

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Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 09.24.03MEET UWTSD’s Marlene’s Marvels. They’re entering a 13-mile race and are being mentored by Wales rugby legend Gareth Thomas as part of his new TV programme. 

Louise Harris, Melanie Lawlor- Fellowes, Helen Thomas, Marlene Tobias and Mel Thomas are among runners whose progress will be tracked in the former sporting star’s new television series, ‘Gareth Thomas: Run For Your Life’.

They will join 100 runners, dubbed ‘Alfie’s Angels’, taking on the Cardiff Half Marathon on October 2. Last Saturday (Jul 16), they met with their mentors – Gareth Thomas and former Commonwealth Games athlete James Thie.

Louise Harris, Principal Administrative Officer at UWTSD’s Faculty of Architecture, Computing and Engineering, said: “It was a great session, meeting Alfie and Jamie Thie, Eloise the nutrionist and Hannah E Phillips, author of No Run Intended. We also had a small training run which was fun and inspirational, with every Angel being greeted and applauded by all the other Angels and Alfie and his team as they crossed the finish line.

“We are one week into the 12 week training course and lots of progress is already being made by everyone. I was even up at 5.20am this morning to get 3.2 miles in before work – I am a changed woman! Marlene’s Marvels are up for the challenge and we will complete the Cardiff Half Marathon on October 2. We are intending to raise money for the Wales Air Ambulance.”

UWTSD’s Marlene Tobias said: “I’ve always thought about doing a half marathon, but have never done anything about it. I’ve never run a mile in my life, let alone 13 miles! I saw the advert for Alfie’s Angels and asked the girls if they fancied doing it. They were game, so I sent in a video and got through. It takes commitment to prepare for a half marathon, but we are all dedicated and motivated and are going to give it our best shot. It will also be a very personal achievement for Mel Thomas (my sister) and myself to be able to raise money for the Wales Air Ambulance.

“We had a fantastic morning with Alfie and the others at the launch event last Saturday, and it was great to meet all the other Angels who will be taking part. I think the important thing to remember is that this is not a race, but just to cross the finishing line, however long it takes. I’m looking forward to it!”

Having tailor-made three separate 12-week programmes for the 100 runners who will take part in the half marathon, Gareth Thomas and James Thie were keen to speak to the group to motivate them and answer their questions.

Gareth Thomas said: “A lot of these women have very busy lifestyles, like any man or woman, and we have taken into consideration all their life commitments.”

Gareth, who was the first rugby union player to earn 100 caps for Wales, is Team Captain, inspiring, encouraging and supporting the women through training exercises and health regimes.

Alfie’s Angels have varying levels of fitness and face a number of tough goals along their journey to race day. Step one is learning how to fit training into their already busy lives, but Gareth will be on hand, mentoring them through the highs and lows, injuries and victories.

Gareth Thomas added: “Running a half marathon is not an easy thing to do and there’s going to be hard times, especially coming from the position that most of these women are, having never run this distance before. I want to help them because I know how important fitness is; this is one event that could potentially change their lives and I think to be a part of that is massively rewarding.

“I also think the outreach could be huge. There’ll be other people sitting on a chair thinking ‘I could actually be that woman, I could do what they are doing’, because they are normal people who are doing extraordinary things.

“A lot work shifts or nights, have a family, and we set their targets accordingly. We want real, everyday people to watch and think ‘if they can do it why can’t I?’ In rugby, you inspire young kids who want to be like you and that’s a good legacy to leave behind. People usually don’t think they have that power but these runners are doing exactly that by influencing people in a positive way.

“These are amazing people and they will get that sense of achievement and that makes me feel very proud.”

With almost all of the group being first-time long-distance runners, their progress will be captured for a BBC Wales documentary as part of BBC Wales’ returning Live Longer Wales season in the autumn, aimed at inspiring Wales to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

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Environment hero helps to keep Carmarthenshire clean

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A young volunteer has been praised by Carmarthenshire County Council for his environmental work in the Whitland area. 

10-year-old Leon litter picks his local area every day, helping to keep the area clean and tidy. As a reward for his fantastic work Leon was invited on a behind the scenes tour of Nantycaws recycling centre and Canolfan Eto.

During the visit, Leon saw the different processes that Carmarthenshire’s household recycling goes through as well as seeing the transformation of items at Canolfan Eto re-use project.

Cllr Edward Thomas, Cabinet Member for Transport, Waste and Infrastructure Services said: “Leon has done a wonderful job in helping to keep Whitland clean and tidy and I’m delighted that we were able to recognise his efforts with a visit to Nantycaws.

“Carmarthenshire is very lucky to have an excellent group of volunteers who are a real asset to the community, giving up their precious time to help keep Carmarthenshire clean. Thank you to everyone who dedicates their time to helping us.” 

Businesses can also support their local environment by becoming a custodian of a ‘2 minute clean’ board. These A-frame boards are equipped with everything needed to clean the area including litter pickers and bags.

For information on becoming a 2 minute clean board custodian or to organise a litter pick please e-mail prideinyourpatch@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

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‘People are booking the test when they’re not ready, and the pass rate is actually declining’

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THE CEO of one of the UK’s biggest driving schools has revealed that learner drivers are still facing massive driving test delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to GB News presenters Esther Vey and Philip Davies, Seb Goldin said: “It depends where you are in the country, but the backlog is really not being got through at any rate from Covid. We’re hearing six, seven, eight and nine months now.

“It’s made worse because people are just trying to book a test when they’re perhaps not even test ready. And then the pass rate is actually declining at the moment, so then tests are just not available for those who would be ready, which is exacerbating the problem.

“We’d say take your lessons, book the test but only when your instructor tells you that you’re test ready.”

Discussing the possible introduction of self driving cars on UK roads and into driving lessons, Goldin explained: “I think with all technology, where there’s such a step-change from human behaviour to machine behaviour, if we could flick a switch overnight and say everyone’s driving autonomous cars then it would be a very easy segway and move on through. But when you’re gonna have human behaviour on the road with semi or fully autonomous cars, that’s where the challenge is gonna be. We expect to be very busy for the next few years at least.”

He added: “Your car even now compared to what you had ten years ago has so much more technology. One of the challenges that we think is that people are not given instruction or coaching in what a car can do and what it can’t do.

“So for example, if you got a new car with cruise control with a radar at the front which manages the distance which is fine if you get used to it. But if you get a bit of road grime on the front of the car it packs up and then suddenly you have to drive normally again, and if you’re not ready for it or not used to it it can be a challenge. So we’re really excited about integrating technology into driving lessons and we’re working with the government and DVSA to help improve and change the curriculum as technology comes through.”

Whilst self driving cars are not fully on the roads, Goldin explained a driver would still be needed behind the wheel: “There are various steps of autonomy. So at the moment, we have cars on what we call Level 1 and Level 2. What the government is taking about is Level 3, where the car can actually be fully in control of the vehicle without the driver needing to have hands on the wheel or control.

“An analogy is if you think of pilots in big ships or aeroplanes, they still have to be trained in how to manually control them if the technology fails. It’s exactly the same with driving.

“All technology that we work with, trust has to grow and we need to understand what it does, and there’s very much back to the point of teaching people and coaching people to drive. Even when people have passed the driving test, you’re not necessarily a ‘safe driver’ you’ve just passed the driving test. So there’s very much a coaching and a learning role as technology comes on.

“When you get a new car from a car dealer, a lot of them are very good at selling you on the finance but perhaps not so much on what the car can do and more importantly, what it can’t do.”

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Communities for Work Plus is on hand to assist with disability support

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CONGRATULATIONS to Tina Evans who has recently joined the BBC Wales presenting team and is currently covering the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

In preparation for starting her new job, Tina sought the services of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Communities for Work Plus programme to help overcome multiple barriers such as access to work and communicating with social services.

Tina, who is from Pontyberem originally, faces numerous challenges, due to long-term health conditions and disabilities, and requires a lot of support in relation to mobility and everyday care, as she is a wheelchair user.

Writing ahead of starting her new role with the BBC, Tina said “I had been offered work with BBC Wales, as part of the presenting team, and needed to sort out support during my role. As I was tight against time, I accessed the Communities for Work Plus hub in Carmarthen with the hope to speed things up. This was the best decision I made. After speaking with their team, I felt a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders as I, now, wasn’t sorting things alone.

“I would especially like to thank Desiree from the Communities for Work Plus team. She supported me through telephone calls with access to work and social services and liaised with them to make sure we met the deadlines required. There were a few barriers to overcome along the way, but with Desiree’s support and determination, we hurdled over them. I must admit, her support was invaluable in gaining access to work and without it, I would have given up.

“I can now look forward with excitement for this opportunity, knowing that I have the support I need.”

Desiree De Mouilpied, Community Employment Officer/Disability Specialist said “It’s been a privilege to assist Tina with her journey to accessing work. Her character and determination, to pursue her dreams and overcome complex barriers into employment, have been inspiring. We all wish her the best of luck in her new job.”

Communities for Work Plus provides the infrastructure to support the ongoing delivery of Communities for Work. The programme enhances the employment-focused support for those, often with complex barriers, who are furthest from the labour market into training and future employment with a holistic and person-centred approach.

Carmarthenshire County Council coordinate employment support from its Llanelli Hwb and office, which are based in the middle of Llanelli Town Centre.

For further information about the Communities For Work Plus programme, please visit https://www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/home/council-services/jobs-careers/help-to-find-a-job/ or email c4wplus@carmarthenshire.gov.uk or phone 01554 784847.

Cllr Gareth John, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism said “We’re delighted for Tina and proud of her success in gaining employment with BBC Wales.

“I would urge people in our county, who are looking to get into work, to take advantage of the support that Carmarthenshire County Council can give to you. Our employment support teams can help you identify training opportunities, provide you with a personal mentor, work with you to develop a job action plan, help you to build your confidence and help with writing a CV and completing job applications.

We want to support more people, like Tina, to overcome barriers to get into work.”

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