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Llanelli bus driver ‘Mr Selfie’ is Back to Raise Funds for Lifesaving Helicopter Charity

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A Llanelli bus driver, who is known as ‘Mr Selfie’, has set himself another challenge of taking a selfie every day for a year to raise funds for the Wales Air Ambulance.

Keith Thomas, who is originally from Swansea, did a similar challenge four years ago and raised £3,700 for Marie Curie.

The original fundraiser was set up by the grandfather-of-seven after his love of taking selfies became a bit of a joke with his colleagues at First Cymru. Following the success of his year-long campaign, Keith was awarded Marie Curie’s fundraiser of the year in 2017. 

Keith, who is looking forward to doing the challenge in 2021, said: “The fundraiser I did for Marie Curie has been the most successful single campaign and it all came about with my love of taking photos. Doing the selfie challenge enabled me to involve so many people from a lot of different backgrounds; members of my family, friends, colleagues, members of the public, sports stars and celebrities.

“Everyone loved the challenge and so many people were excited to be involved. Even now, I have people asking me if they can have a selfie with me – that is my unofficial title – Mr Selfie!”

Keith Thomas AKA ‘Mr Selfie’ with officers from South Wales Police in Castle Square, Swansea (Image: Wales Air Ambulance)

Mr Selfie has set himself the target of raising £1,000 for the lifesaving challenge but he hopes to smash his target. He will be using the same hashtag as last time – #selfie365me.

Speaking on why he has chosen the Wales Air Ambulance to raise funds for this time, he said: “I believe the air ambulances are such a crucial addition to the emergency services. I have seen them in action when my stepson played rugby; they attended teammates of his on two occasions and were so fantastic at what they did.

“So many lives are saved because of the swift action of our medical services and the air ambulance is the ultimate enhancement of their incredible work.”

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Mr Selfie with BBC Radio Wales’s Jason Mohammad (Image: Wales Air Ambulance)

The former plumber was forced to have a career change after his ill health made it impossible to continue in that profession. He was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2008, which resulted in him being rushed into hospital four years ago and having major surgery to remove his bowel.

Speaking of his health problems, Keith said: “I had a very serious flare-up and I was given the appropriate information regarding my next options and I decided that it would be best for me to live with a stoma for the rest of my life. I have had no regrets. I have been able to regain my life and I have dedicated my time to be the best driver I can be, whilst raising awareness for people living with hidden disabilities and fundraising for different charities along the way.”

The upbeat bus driver has received accolades, such as Best Driver in the Wales Transport Awards and a silver award in the UK Bus Awards in 2019.

Mr Selfie is raising funds for the Wales Air Ambulance Charity (Image: Wales Air Ambulance)

Wales Air Ambulance South Wales fundraising manager, Mark Stevens, said: “A huge thank you to Keith for choosing our charity for his year-long challenge. If there is one person that can guarantee a selfie a day, it would have to be ‘Mr Selfie’. Our charity turns 20 years old in 2021 and we are delighted that Keith is supporting us during this milestone year.

“It sounds like a fun challenge and I look forward to seeing who he takes selfies with. Please show Keith your support and help him raise much-needed funds to keep our 24/7 lifesaving service up and running.”

You can show your support to Mr Selfie by taking a selfie and donating via his Just Giving page Keith’s 2021 Selfie challenge.

You can follow Mr Selfie via his Twitter page @keiththom2014 or his Facebook page Keith’s 2021 Selfie challenge.

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Business

Fashion students design sustainable leggings for Commonwealth Games thanks to Llanelli manufacturer

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Two Fashion Design students at the University of South Wales (USW) have designed leggings for Team Wales athletes – made from sustainable materials – to wear at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Bethan Jones and Olivia Soady, both in their final year, won a design competition set by Commonwealth Games Wales in partnership with USW.

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The students worked closely with Onesta, an award-winning sustainable clothing brand based in Llanelli, to bring their designs to life, and in total, Onesta manufactured 360 pairs of leggings for Team Wales.

They were officially revealed last week (Friday 1 July) when the Queen’s Baton Relay passed through Llanelli and stopped at the Onesta studio, where the baton-bearer, Wales Women’s rugby international Jasmine Joyce, modelled the Team Wales kit.

Onesta has only been trading since June 2020 but is already kitting out the likes of Rosie Eccles, Anwen Butten and Alys Thomas as they represented Wales at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

The collaborative project was developed with funding from the USW Exchange Partnership and Engagement Programme, which enables organisations to directly benefit from scoping and feasibility support, as well as access to USW’s academic expertise.

Following a brief from Team Wales, Bethan and Olivia’s designs focused heavily on sustainability, ensuring the leggings are practical, long-lasting and have a clear Welsh identity.

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Olivia said: “From the offset it was made very clear in the brief that these leggings were meant to be worn and to last, which is something that Bethan and I took into consideration throughout the design process. I’d read an article on all these amazing things which had originated in Wales, which gave me the idea of our country being small but mighty.”

Bethan and Olivia’s legging design
(Image: University of South Wales)

Bethan added: “Olivia and I both had a very similar concept. Mine was all about Welsh power symbols, and being proud to be Welsh, alongside the importance of sustainable production. So we merged those ideas together and got something very contemporary, which we’re really proud of. Being able to work on this project with Team Wales is such an exciting opportunity for me, and something which really aligns with my values as a person and as a designer.”

Owner and founder of Onesta, Gabriella Diana, said: “We are proud to have been selected as the manufacturer of casual leggings for Team Wales, designed in collaboration with USW students.

“Manufacturing in Wales not only lowers the carbon footprint of our clothing, but also puts money back into our local economy, strengthening industry here in the UK, and providing skilled jobs to local people and graduates. Plus, we know all our garments are made by happy hands.

“Working on this project with Team Wales has been really exciting, and we have loved being involved in developing sustainable sportswear for the Commonwealth Games.”

Stacey Grant-Canham, lecturer in Fashion Design at USW who worked with Bethan and Olivia on this project, said: “The designers are fully immersed in the industry from day one on the Fashion Design course here at USW; both taking advantage of our option of a year out in industry, they have the commercial awareness and creativity underpinned with a strong knowledge of circularity for fashion. It’s a real winning combination. The fact that they opted to collaborate is testament to the holistic way they see their place in this global industry too.”

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Bethan and Olivia’s legging design
(Image: University of South Wales)

Cathy Williams, Head of Engagement at Commonwealth Games Wales, added: “’The partnership between Commonwealth Games Wales and USW has become stronger and stronger over the past few years, and it’s great that once again we can bring in young and talented individuals like Bethan and Olivia to create something special for the team.

“We first ran this competition with USW for the Gold Coast 2018 Games, and we’ve built on that success, and we love seeing the athletes wearing the finished design.”

Chris Jenkins, CEO of Commonwealth Games Wales, said: ‘’Working alongside USW on such projects is really important for the organisation; not only does it provide a platform for young designers and university students to get a feel for the industry in the ‘real’ world, but for us, it opens up our support network to people who wouldn’t necessarily be drawn into sport.

“The Commonwealth Games is more than a sporting event – it’s an opportunity to bring in communities across the country and support Wales on a global platform. Congratulations to both designers, and I’d like to thank USW and Onesta for all their hard work.”

Since it commenced trading, over two years ago, Carmarthenshire County Council has supported Onesta, not only during the COVID-19 pandemic but also to realise the company’s long-term ambitions. In June 2021, Onesta was awarded an Economic Resilience Fund grant of £2,500 by Carmarthenshire County Council as support to cover the business bills during the COVID-19 restrictions of May and June 2021. They were also awarded a £2000 Non-Domestic Rates Grant during the COVID-19 support schemes in February 2022.

In April 2022, Onesta was awarded a Business Growth & Recovery Grant of £10,000 to assist with the purchase of manufacturing equipment and workshop and office furniture. The grant money will fund a cutting table, overlockers, cutting machine, industrial iron, industrial sewing machine and lockstitch, which would assist in the manufacturing of the clothing for the Wales Commonwealth Team for the 2022 Games.

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The company’s founder, Gabriella Diana, was nominated by the Council for the Wales Start Up Awards in 2021 in which she went on to win the Rising Star category.

Since then, Onesta has also won the Marie Claire Sustainability Award for Best Sustainable Small Brand 2021, UnLtd Social Entrepreneur Award, and was a finalist in the Cardiff Life Awards 2021 and the GBEA Awards 2021.  

Onesta was highly commended in the Heroes of Net Zero competition at a special awards ceremony, hosted by Intuit, at the COP26 international climate change summit in Glasgow. More than 160 businesses entered the competition, making a commitment at the UK Business Climate Hub to achieve net zero by 2050, in line with the government’s own climate commitment. They were highly commended in the micro business category for demonstrating a range of measures taken on their journey to net zero, including sourcing eco-friendly materials locally, removing toxic chemicals used in manufacturing and re-purposing fabric scraps to make sustainable products for Surfers Against Sewage.

Gabriella Diana, Founder and Owner of Onesta added: “I’m very grateful to Carmarthenshire County Council for the financial support we have received to, not only survive the COVID-19 restrictions but also to build the business and strive.”

Since launching the Business Growth & Start-Up Grant scheme in early 2022, Carmarthenshire County Council has approved 61 business grants to Carmarthenshire businesses. Of which 44 approvals were Business Growth & Recovery Grants, totalling £299,225.17 and 17 approvals were Business Start Up Grants, totalling £117,924.31.

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Cllr Gareth John, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure Culture and Tourism said: “As a local authority, we are delighted to have been able to invest in Gabriella and her company to enable her to grow the business. We are also very proud to have provided financial support to Onesta, and other companies based in Carmarthenshire, to weather the difficult COVID-19 restrictions of the past two and a half years.

“We have all enjoyed watching Wales’ athletes compete at the recent Commonwealth Games and the fact that they are wearing a kit that is made in Carmarthenshire has been a source of much pride for Carmarthenshire County Council.”

(Lead image: University of South Wales)

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Hywel Dda NHS

Health minister visits new Llanelli day surgery units nearing completion

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Work is nearing completion on the new Day Surgery Unit at Prince Philip Hospital, in Llanelli, which the health board says will help reduce surgical waiting lists for patients in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

Hywel Dda University Health Board has delivered the scheme thanks to £20m of Welsh Government funding.

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Welsh Government Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, visited the unit on Friday (5 July), which is due to welcome patients during September 2022.

She said: “Investing in new facilities such as the day surgery unit at Prince Philip Hospital is a vital part of our ambitious strategy to transform planned care in Wales.

“This new unit will help to see thousands of people in need of surgical treatment in the Hywel Dda health board area, as well as those from neighbouring health boards, and will bring more resilience and capacity for NHS Wales to care for people when they need it.”

The unit, includes two theatres, designed specifically to reduce risk of infection by generating a continuous flow of bacteria free air, as well as preparation rooms, anaesthetic rooms, changing facilities and a recovery area.

Ultimately the theatres will have capacity to run six days of the week and will cover specialties including orthopaedics, general surgery, urology and vascular surgery, although this work will be phased.

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Although based in Llanelli, the health board say that the theatres will provide care for patients across the Hywel Dda region and for patients on the borders with Powys and Swansea health boards.

Consultant surgeon and Clinical Director for Scheduled Care Mr Ken Harries said: “We are looking ultimately for around four to five thousand patients to receive procedures in this unit annually. We are ambitious on behalf of our communities and are extending our theatre sessions and days to maximise efficiency and see patients, some of whom have had to sometimes wait significant amounts of time.

“There is a continued challenge of getting the workforce to help us deliver this, but that is a challenge we share with the NHS across the country and one which we are putting all our efforts into. We hope this first-class facility and our approach to recovery, will attract future recruits.

“An added advantage this unit will give us is that it is stand alone, which protects it from impacts within the main hospital wider activity, this will be of huge benefit to patients coming into the unit and for our staff also.”

Executive Director of Strategic Development and Operational Planning Lee Davies added: “This has been an ambitious project, driven by a shared desire to rapidly provide additional facilities for patients across our region to receive their treatment. It is part of our wider recovery plan to rapidly address waiting lists which have grown during the pandemic, which we know is of significant concern to our residents and a key priority for this health board.”

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(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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Dyfed Powys Police

Court order bans visitors to a Llanelli house after Police called to address 60 TIMES in 9 months

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An order banning visitors to an address in Llanelli for three months has been made by the courts.

Dyfed-Powys Police applied for a closure order to stop anti-social behaviour and disorder at 36 Murray Street.

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The force’s Legal Services presented evidence to Llanelli Magistrates’ Court and the notice was granted on Thursday, August 4.

Between September 8, 2021, and June 22,2022, police received more than 60 calls to the address, ranging from theft and anti-social behaviour to assaults and robberies.

For the next three months anyone other than the people named by the courts are banned from visiting the property.

PC Aled Davies said: “It is a fairly rare move for a closure notice to be issued on a residential property. It was given careful consideration and deemed the most appropriate action to take to reduce the anti-social behaviour that was happening there and improve the quality of life for other residents.

“Only the tenants and a few other named people are permitted to be at the address. They are aware of the closure order.

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“Anyone else seen visiting the property will be in contravention of the order and faces a fine, prison or both.

“To report sightings of anyone else visiting the address call police on 101 immediately.”

Dyfed-Powys Police say their Legal Services have successfully secured a number of closure orders throughout the force area over recent years, and add that the force also provides assistance and support where closure orders are sought by local authorities within the force area.

A closure order is a tool under the Anti-Social Behaviour and Crime and Policing Act 2014 that gives police the ability to close a property to provide quick relief from the anti-social behaviour that has been occurring there.

Closures can be made for 48 hours without needing to go to court for permission. When applied for through the courts, closure orders can be for up to three months.

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(Lead image: Google Maps)

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