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Postmaster tackles Dragon’s Back Race in aid of lifesaving charity

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A BANCYFELIN postmaster has raised an incredible £5,000 for the Wales Air Ambulance – by taking on the world’s toughest mountain race.

Father-of-two Dean Thomas set himself the challenge of competing in the Dragon’s Back Race, which saw him run from Conwy Castle to Cardiff Castle in just six days – a distance of 380km, or 1.5 marathons a day.

Dean, who also runs the outreach post offices in Llangain and Llansteffan, said: “In the last few weeks leading up to the event more and more people were asking if I was doing it for a charity, so with a week to go when the race was all systems go, and I was fit to go we decided to raise funds for Wales Air Ambulance.

“We chose the Wales Air Ambulance as it’s a locally based charity which was important to us, it’s a relevant cause to all as none of us know when we could need the service. It hit home to us when the Wales Air Ambulance landed opposite the shop at the beginning of the year when one of our villagers needed their help.

“It was ironic really that on route to the race registration I was caught up in traffic behind a serious road collision where a motorcyclist required the assistance of the air ambulance, reaffirming our charity choice for the amazing work and service they provide.”

In December 2020, the charity achieved its aim of operating a 24/7 service. Wales now has access to the service’s Emergency Department-standard critical care around the clock and to keep the helicopters in the air, the charity needs to raise £8 million every year.

Whilst Dean concentrated on the huge task ahead, his wife Anthea, who also works at the post office and shop in Bancyfelin, and their two daughters, Ellie and Megan, focussed on the fundraising.

Dean initially hoped to raise £1,000 for the lifesaving charity, but quickly smashed that target.

He said: “Anthea and the girls did all of the fundraising really, I just did the running. We only started the week before the event and the response was incredible.

“It was just word of mouth from there really. We’re quite lucky in a way that we see a high volume of people within the shop and post offices. I think we expected to raise a thousand pounds due to us starting it so late, so we were blown away with people’s generosity and support for the charity.” 

Dean – who took part in his first half marathon aged just 13 – is no stranger to pushing his body to the limits, having previously completed nine marathons, which included three London Marathons and five Snowdonia Marathons.

He has participated in the International Snowdon Race, which is a race to the summit of Snowdon and back to Llanberis 15 times and the Brecon Beacons’ Fan Dance. Dean has also featured in the Ninja Warrior UK series 4.

As Dean took on the ultra running journey down the spine of Wales, he was hit with an injury on day five.

He added: “I got injured and I still had over 50 miles to go, every step was really painful and that pain doubled going downhill. I saw the race doctor on the last morning who told me then that the injury I had could be a stress fracture or could lead to one, so she taped my shins up and that’s all that could be done – other than stopping and resting, but that wasn’t an option!”  

Pupils from Ysgol Bancyfelin threw their support behind Dean and followed his progress each day. The children made daily video updates of his progress which they shared on social media and wished him luck throughout his gruelling challenge.

Dean had no contact with his wife Anthea and daughters during the week, added: “I was unaware of all the support I was receiving during the race as I had no contact with anyone until I arrived in Cardiff on the final day of the race. I was in my own little bubble for the week so all I had to focus on was getting to Cardiff.

“I was amazed to hear how many people were tracking me and how much they enjoyed it too, some family members and friends spent hours of their week watching a dot on a map tracking me.” 

Dean was delighted when he arrived back home to Bancyfelin to a surprise welcome home from the villagers and the school children. He said: “The welcome home was amazing and completely unexpected, I said to Anthea and the girls at the time, ‘what’s all this for? I’ve only been for a run’.  I couldn’t get my head around it and didn’t know the school children had been following me all week.”

Katie Macro, Campaigns Manager for the Wales Air Ambulance, said: “Dean has raised an amazing £5,000 for our lifesaving charity by completing the exhausting Dragon Back Race.

Despite suffering an injury on day five, that didn’t stop Dean from completing his challenge, which is incredible. He showed sheer determination to continue the remaining 50 miles.

“Wales Air ambulance regularly attends life and limb-threatening emergencies in Carmarthenshire. Donations like this are vital and we know how important our service is, particularly for rural areas. By keeping our helicopters in the air we can continue to take the emergency department to the patient, saving time and saving lives. Thank you to everyone who supported Dean in his fundraiser or donated to our Charity. You’re all helping save lives across Wales.”

There are several ways that the public can continue to support the Wales Air Ambulance.

These include online donations, signing up to the Charity’s Lifesaving Lottery or by coming up with their own innovative ways to fundraise at home. Further information can be found via www.walesairambulance.com. 

Alternatively, a £5 text-message donation can be made by texting the word HELI to 70711.

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Community

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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Community Shop holds Queen’s Volunteer Award ceremony

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ON AUGUST 12, at 10:30am the popular and successful Dryslwyn Community Shop will at last celebrate the Queens’ Award for Volunteers, which they received in 2021.

Sara Edwards, Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed, will present the award.

“There will be cake and light refreshments,” explains volunteer coordinator Michele Powell, “with speeches from directors and as always, everyone is welcome.”

“The shop and post office were due to close in 2009,” explains one of the directors of the shop, “ending a by then 157 years run of a post office in the location. However, the local community pulled together and took over the shop and post office by forming a non-for-profit company. This is run by 35 friendly volunteers on the counter and behind the scenes, for our community.”

The shop deservedly received recognition for its service to the community, saving the residents a 12m journey to the next shop or post office and reducing rural isolation by providing a community hub. The shop also aims to stock locally grown, healthy and environmentally friendly stock.

Last year land was donated for a new building for the shop, next to its current location, with more scope for seating and parking.

“Details of the planning application, which is about to be submitted, were presented to the public recently,” explains project chair Nigel Jones. “We look forward to providing more feedback and discussion with residents over this as well as efforts to gain funding, when we are able to.” The shop is also always keen to add to its pool of volunteers.

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20mph speed limits in Wales ‘will protect pedestrians and save money’

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SENEDD members will vote on Welsh Government plans to introduce 20mph as a standard speed limit across Wales on Tuesday (Jul 12).

The plans intend to shift to a default speed limit of 20mph from the current 30mph in most residential roads and other busy streets.

If it passes, the new law is expected to come into force from September 17, 2023.

The policy aims to reduce the number of road traffic collisions, improve air quality and noise pollution, and encourage the shift away from car use.

Research and pilot trials in eight areas across Wales have been regarded as a success by Welsh ministers.

The government estimates that after an initial £33 million is spent on the change, it will be offset by a saving of £58m in reduced use of emergency services and hospital admissions over 30 years.

Supporters of the move say that pedestrians are 40% less likely to die when hit by a car travelling at 20mph compared with one travelling at 30mph.

Dr Sarah Jones, consultant in environmental public health at Public Health Wales, said: “Travelling at 20 mph has been shown to reduce the risk of crashing and the severity of crashes that do still happen.

“It also produces less noise pollution and reduces fuel consumption. It encourages people to walk and cycle, helping to fight obesity and improve mental well-being.

“All of these are likely to contribute to improvements in health and reduction in the demands for health services, which will help the NHS recovery from Covid.”

However, not everybody is in favour of the change. The law is likely to be opposed by the Welsh Conservatives.

Sam Rowlands, MS for North Wales, has called on residents to voice their concerns about the plans.

Mr Rowlands said: “I met with local councillor Adie Drury and residents in Buckley, this morning who are extremely frustrated at the pilot scheme which has led to roads through the town having a 20mph speed limit instead of 30mph.

“They are quite rightly very concerned as they believe that pollution is increasing because cars have to drive in a lower gear and wait longer at traffic lights, there have also been more accidents and the cost of the scheme is thought to be in the region of £33 million across Wales which would be better spent on more teachers, doctors and nurses.

“The trial has certainly caused a lot of problems for people living in Buckley and I am angry on their behalf as there does appear to be a lack of public awareness around these changes.

“I do support letting councils put 20mph speed limits outside schools, hospitals and other areas where evidence shows it’s a benefit, but a blanket 20mph speed limit across urban roads in Wales is just not right.”

Stephen Edwards, chief executive of Living Streets, who advocates a walking based approach to travel, said: “This would be life-changing legislation because slower speeds will improve the places where we live, work and go to school.

“It’s simple: slower speeds save lives – and I urge Members of the Senedd to support the 20mph in the vote on 12 July and help make our streets and pavements safe and accessible for everyone in our communities.”

Christine Boston, director of sustainably travel organisation Sustrans Cymru, said: “Sustrans Cymru joins Living Streets and Cycling UK in calling for Members of the Senedd to support the proposals, because 20mph defaults will help make communities across Wales safer and more attractive places to walk, wheel and cycle.

“We believe that everyone in Wales should have access to safe streets. Making 20mph default limits in our communities will help to reduce the dominance of motor vehicles whilst creating opportunities for social interaction, creating happier and healthier places.

“We want communities that are built for safety rather than speed.”

Commenting, Welsh Shadow Minister for Transport, Natasha Ashgar MS, said: “The Welsh Conservatives are not against introducing 20mph speed limits outside schools, playgrounds, places of worship and high streets, but a blanket roll-out is quite frankly ludicrous.

“With a price tag of more than £32 million, is this really money well spent at a time when the Labour Government should be focused on tackling the big issues at hand such as the cost-of-living? I don’t think it is, and I am sure residents across the country will be thinking the exact same.

“This is yet another diktat imposed by Labour from Cardiff Bay.

“Speed limits like this should be decided by councils in their local areas, not top-down by Labour ministers. Let’s give local people the power over their communities, the very people who know their roads best.”

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