Who is this month’s Local Hero?
Bob Chapman and all staff and volunteers at the Upper Afan Community Help Hub
(Cymer Afan Community Library)
What have they been doing?
In Cymer (population c4,500) in the Upper Afan Valley, the library re-opened six years ago as a community-run organisation with around 20 volunteers and a small team of dedicated staff.
This passionate and committed team has developed the library into a much-loved community building. As well as the usual activities of any public library (book, CD and DVD lending, newspapers, public computers and a printer/photocopier) they have developed a tea-room and a range of regular services, activities and events, including: Needle and Yarn session, groups for mothers, babies and toddlers, and Yoga and Tai Chi classes. The library also hosts Book Clubs, Coffee Mornings, Film Screenings and are a base for drop-in services such as Citizens Advice, the local Credit Union and Food Bank, a Hearing Aid Repair service & help with Family History Research.
Closed for their usual activities due to COVID-19 they have recently changed their name to reflect that they are there to help everybody in the villages that make up the area and have turned the community library building into a Community Help Hub. From this building the team is:
- Providing support and coordination across the upper Afan valley for volunteers seeking to support people who are self-isolating at home;
- Providing essential support services to isolated people using a team of specially recruited volunteers – the tasks will initially include the purchase and delivery of groceries and other house-hold items, cooked meals, and the collection of prescriptions;
- Reopening the Food Bank which has operated in the valley for several years until last week when it was forced to close.
Why are they amazing?
They have successfully developed their community library, the last non-sporting public space in the village, into a central community facility, tackling isolation, particularly amongst older people, young mothers and people with disabilities or a learning disability. Their users are enabled to access services, activities and events they would otherwise not be able to attend in the local area. They work closely with their partners in the Upper Afan Valley and when the COVID-19 crisis has passed they plan to step up a gear, increase their opening hours and developing new services which will turn them into a sustainable multi-purpose community facility.
We were really pleased to be able to support them with a Pen y Cymoedd COVID-19 Project grant of £13,176.00 to support their activity during the current crisis. As an organisation they work tirelessly to fundraise and secure core funding, are always looking to improve their offering and work with all other organisations in the area.
Quotes from others
“Congratulations and well done responding to community need during lockdown 👍.”
“Well done volunteers for keeping access to services going, amazing community spirit”
“The way in which they have responded and changed the services they operate so quickly to meet the needs of the community in the current crisis is excellent and shows how rooted they are in the community.” – Carys Miles NPTCVS