by Rachel Evans

This has been another varied and busy couple of months for Rural Wisdom in Milford. As you may have read in a previous blog, October saw the start of Soup & Sarnies at a Community Centre on one of the town’s estates, a collaborative effort with some enthusiastic local residents supported by Lynne, a local businesswoman and passionate social activist. Soup & Sarnies has been slow to start, but gradually more people are calling in, if only to have a quick chat and a cup of tea.

This centre is such a precious resource for the estate and its future has always been at the heart of any planned activities, with a lot of thought going into more ways of keeping it open and useful for people on the doorstep. We are now working on bringing some mental health provision to the Centre for those living close by – there is a great will to make this happen, and with the help of Tracey from MIND and Lee from PAVS, we think there is a good chance.

The Monday Meet carers’ group at the library has been quiet but when setting up a new group it is really important to be consistent, even if it takes a while to get off the ground. Community work is often about sticking it out to get results. I am really grateful to Ingrid from Hafal Crossroads who, as an outreach worker with unpaid carers, has been willing to lend a hand to get the group going.

By total contrast, the new Knit & Natter at a local sheltered accommodation took off right from the get-go. 12 ladies turned up the first week and I think we have had 15 or 16 people attend in total. My Volunteering Matters colleague, Anne, and I are working on this together, taking it in turns to spend time with the ladies but always encouraging them to meet up anyway when we are not there. They get together in their lovely light airy lounge/dining-room and some great hand-produced items are underway.

In early November, the Rural Wisdom project gathering in Flintshire was a great opportunity to compare notes with and learn from our Scottish colleagues. We talked about what was working, what our two home nations have in common and where our infrastructures are different. This was a fascinating area of discussion and for our part we were so pleased to welcome Steve Huxton from Wales’ Ageing Well programme, an element of the work of the Commission for Older People in the principality. The agenda for older people works differently in Scotland and we hope our visitors found Steve’s contribution of interest.

Lastly, on a more general note, Anne and I are looking forward to welcoming our Volunteer Organisers to a small Christmas gathering. Our work with older people in Wales depends so much on these wonderful people, who take on extra responsibility to keep activity going and support other volunteers. This is such a great chance to catch up, network, share issues and solutions… well as the many, many good news stories. On that note, our theme for the event is “Case Studies”: people have been invited to talk about how their groups came about, how they help to establish new friendships and re-kindle old ones and how they welcome all who want to join in. These will be cheerful, moving, life-affirming tales and will encourage all of us into 2019.