Rural Wisdom in Wales – update from Milford Haven

Blog from Rachel Evans – Rural Wisdom Development Worker for Milford Haven, Wales

Well, it’s been quite an eventful few months since the start of the Rural Wisdom project here in Pembrokeshire.

Throughout 14 years of service, I have gathered some valuable experience as a project worker with Volunteering Matters and so it was an absolute privilege for me to able to use some of what I have learnt in the Rural Wisdom project in Milford Haven.

Rural Wisdom seeks to help older people in a given community achieve the small manageable changes that will make life better for everyone. I and other Rural Wisdom staff are the resources to help them make those things happen – with a little support, communities can make great strides. The project was masterminded by Outside the Box in Scotland as a Scotland-Wales initiative and it is funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund – we are so happy that they approached us to be their delivery partners in Wales.

At the end of the line

Up until this point, my experience has been with unpaid carers, social car schemes and befriending, county-wide and beyond, so it was great to have an opportunity to do some community development work in one very targeted area.

Milford is a wonderful little town – the town and its environs boast a population of around 13,000. Some might ask, “….so how is that rural?” The answer would be, we’re at the end of the line here, over 100 miles west of Cardiff, and in a rural county with fewer services and transport links than areas which are more connected.

Although a town of great character, Milford has seen its fair share of change that has not always been easy for the local people to absorb. The fishing industry declined and the town centre itself has, like many others, become quieter.

However, the petroleum industry thrives here, partly due to the world-class depth of the town’s natural harbour, and the marina has become a focal point for leisure.

Building a vision

On May 9th, the Rural Wisdom project kicked off for real when a number of local people and interested organisations gathered together with the National Development Team for Inclusion, our evaluation partners. The idea was to discover the future vision of the town according to folk living in Milford and then formulate a plan around how to realise as much of the vision as possible.

This was a great session – loads of ideas emerged and I knew we would be able to do something practical with a number of them.

Progress so far?

There is a growing email group of local people and organisations with an interest in the Rural Wisdom project in Milford. News and events are circulated amongst these members. This group numbers over 50 now and the following have been initiated through it:

    • A monthly events listing called ‘Milford Haven What’s On’ saw a successful start in September as a response to local people feeling that there was not enough communication about available activities. Nearly all the copies were picked up from Tesco and the local GP surgery and the October issue swelled from 4 pages to 9! We will need to look at the design in order to reduce the size and the cost but these are all good problems to have as it means that the listing is needed – we will overcome. Happily, the Town Council is really pleased that this has been tackled and I am grateful to have been asked to a meeting of the regeneration group to chat about what I have been up to.
    • There have been weekly social sessions at the Pill Centre, centred around boardgames and friendship (see image). Colin, the lovely Mayor of Milford, is working so hard to make a difference in his town and he wanted to provide this for people living around the Centre, as it would be easy for them to get to.
    • A new knitting group has started at Milford Library as a result of demand;  the Library staff, who have been so enthusiastic about Rural Wisdom, already host one of Volunteering Matters longstanding knitting groups, so it’s great to get another off the ground. We have plenty of donated wool, patterns and needles to get people started. 
    • Other work with the library and Rachel Gibby, Older People’s Strategy Officer with the County Council, will bring about a new telephone book club for isolated people. This will hopefully be followed by a physical book group. 
    • A lunch club is being planned by a community activist who was spurred on knowing that she would have support from the Rural Wisdom project. This luncheon club will be launched in November……Jackie has been working so hard to get all the appropriate ducks in a row on this one and I for one cannot wait to get stuck in to help her make it the success she and the town deserve.
    • Lastly, my line manager, Natasha, and I had a great meeting recently with Steve and Iwan from the Older People’s Commissioner’s Office – they were really enthusiastic about what we are trying to achieve and we will be pledging a commitment to their national campaign.

That’s all for now – I’ll check in again soon with any other developments.

Rachel

Get in touch with Rachel: rachel.evans@volunteeringmatters.org.uk / 07733 265769

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