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Cerebra sensory pod chairs project underway thanks to Nationwide donation

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The University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s (UWTSD) Cerebra Innovation Centre is collaborating on a project to build 10 new sensory stimulating Pod Chairs, thanks to a £10,000 donation from Nationwide.

The Cerebra Innovation Centre (CIC) – a partnership between UWTSD and the Carmarthen-based children’s charity, Cerebra, is based at the University’s Swansea College of Art, where the team design and build innovative, bespoke products that help disabled children discover and engage with the world around them.

Curtis, who has Charge Syndrome, using one of Cerebra’s Pod Chairs (Image: UWTSD)

The Pod Chairs are sensory stimulating and empower children to feel more grounded, balanced, and safe. They are hugely popular and have already made a big difference to children like Curtis (pictured).

Curtis has Charge Syndrome, which affects him in lots of different ways. It affects his development, meaning that he can’t walk and talk, and he also has many sensory issues. He is partially sighted and partially deaf and unable to tell where his body is in space, which leads to balance issues.

Mum, Louise contacted CIC after seeing a post on their Facebook page about the Pod Chairs. She knew one would be perfect for her son and it’s become an important part of his day. Curtis can touch the floor and spin himself, which gives him independence, but it also grounds him. The benefits really have been huge.

Dr Ross Head, Associate Professor and Product Design Manager at UWTSD’s Cerebra Innovation Centre said: “The chairs we make are beautifully crafted and super tough and enable sensory seekers to spin to their heart’s content, but they are really expensive to make, so funding like this goes a long way towards helping more children with beautiful yet functional products to help enrich their lives.”

The grant is part of Nationwide’s Colleague Grant programme, where twenty-four charities received a share of just over £200,000 to support projects in areas including innovation and helping people to thrive in their own environment.

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Nicola Tilson, who is part of the Nationwide team at the Rotherham branch, knows the impact projects like this have on children living with a brain condition and their families. She said: “I work really closely with Cerebra helping with fundraising events, many of which we do as a team at our Rotherham branch. When the opportunity to apply for a grant for the charity came up, I jumped at the chance. Charities have been hit by the pandemic and anything we can do to support and help them continue their valuable work with local communities is so important.”

Dr Head added: “My team and I are so thankful to Nicola and her colleagues at Nationwide for their hard work and generosity towards Cerebra.”

James Hay, Cerebra Fundraising Manager added: “We are over the moon and incredibly grateful to receive the support of Nationwide, particularly the team at the Rotherham branch. This donation will enable us to provide ten safe, sensory stimulating Pod Chairs to help even more children like Curtis.”


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Tesco brings £300k New Year cheer for South Wales community groups

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Tesco is bringing a positive start to the year for communities in South Wales by launching a campaign to give good causes part of a £300,000 boost.

From 17 January to 6 February, listeners to Heart and Smooth radio stations in South Wales who work with charities or not-for-profit organisations will be encouraged to apply for a £5,000 cash grant.

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Presenters including Jamie Theakston and Jenni Falconer will be telling listeners how to nominate their favourite groups on air, and priority will be given to projects that provide food and support to young people, such as school breakfast clubs, food banks, or charities supporting young people to manage mental health.

The campaign is running in addition to Tesco Community Grants, the in-store scheme where customers vote with blue tokens for community projects and groups, which has been helping local people since 2016.

Among the groups in South Wales to receive funding for recent projects was Twyn Community Hub in Twynyrodyn, Merthyr Tydfil, which was given £1,000 towards its Yum Yum This Is Scrum campaign which sought to aid food exploration and educate on making healthy choices.

Another was Theatr Iolo in Cardiff, which received £1,000 towards the creation of free creative play packs for families in need in order to spread a little kindness and joy.

Claire de Silva, Head of Community at Tesco, said: “We know the start of the year can be tough for many families financially, so we wanted to find a way to give something extra to the communities our stores support across the nation.

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“We hope that Heart and Smooth listeners will help us celebrate all the community groups who make such a difference to young people and families, not just in January but year round too. We’re really proud to be launching this new campaign, which is an extra boost to our Tesco Community Grants scheme that already helps thousands of people every year.”

Graham Duxbury, Chief Executive at Groundwork, the charity that works with Tesco on community initiatives, said: “For many people the combination of money worries and the ongoing impact of the pandemic is making the start of 2022 a challenging time.  

“That’s why it’s so important that we continue to support the local charities and community groups who work tirelessly to provide essential services and bring people together in neighbourhoods across the nation. Money is tight for many of these groups too, so we’re delighted to be working with Tesco to make extra funds available so that they can expand their activities and help more people.”

To nominate your chosen charity or community group and to find out more about Tesco Community Grants go to www.tescocommunitygrants.org.uk 

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Look out for a loved one this Blue Monday say Samaritans Cymru

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Today marks Blue Monday, supposedly the most difficult day of the year, but the leading suicide prevention charity says feeling low can happen on any day of the year and that we need to be aware of how the pandemic is increasing those feelings amongst many of us.

As pandemic uncertainties continue, Samaritans Cymru is encouraging people to get their mugs out and share a drink with a friend, neighbour or colleague who may be struggling to cope. 

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Although winter is thought to be one of the harder seasons with dark days and frosty nights, Samaritans volunteers hear similar concerns all year round from those that contact the charity. The main concerns include mental health and illness (46%), family (34%) and loneliness (28%)*. 

National treasure Dame Julie Walters joins faces from TV and comedy, including James Acaster and Keith Lemon, and talented artists across the UK to encourage people to have a cuppa and a chat with someone they care about for Samaritans Brew Monday. 

Samaritans Ambassador Dame Julie Walters thinks people can really make a difference to someone’s day just by asking if they are OK. She said: “People go through a range of emotions throughout the year so the idea of feeling blue on one day is a load of rubbish. I’ve had my fair share of blue days and have found solace in speaking to loved ones over a glass of something or two. 

“It is a simple action that can go a long way, particularly now when so many people continue to feel isolated and lonely. It doesn’t have to be Monday, or a cuppa, connecting with someone at any time during the year shows them you are there and ready to listen.” 

Talented artists who have experience of mental health struggles, including Cardiff-based Nathan Wyburn of Britain’s Got Talent fame,  have also lent their paintbrushes and pencils by creating uplifting illustrations that share a message of connection with others over a cup of something and a catch up. 

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Nathan Wyburn has had his own mental health struggles and anxiety which at times stalled his creativity, but he credits the power of talking in his recovery. Nathan is known for creating art with food, including portraits of Mariah Carey and Tim Peake, so for Brew Monday Nathan created an uplifting portrait showing two people connecting, made with coffee and biscuits. Nathan said: 

“Having suffered with anxiety, panic attacks and bouts of depression for many years, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to do anything in those moments, let alone talk – but take it from me, once you open up about how you’re feeling, it can be life-changing. I’m so proud to be supporting Brew Monday and really hope my coffee art catches someone’s eye and makes them think to pick up the phone to a friend. You never know just how much a simple conversation could help someone.”  

Samaritans Cymru continues to highlight how the pandemic has widened inequalities in Wales in order to tackle the prevalence of suicide. Living in poverty, job insecurity and loneliness and isolation are all social issues which have risen during the pandemic but it is important to recognize these are all risk factors for suicide. Reaching out to those around us and asking how they are over a cup of tea or coffee, could actually be a lifesaver, 

With support from Network Rail, Transport for Wales and the wider rail industry, Samaritans will have a presence at train stations across Wales throughout January, supporting key workers and those who are travelling, providing tea bags and tips on how to be a better listener, along with their helpline details.

Bethan Jelfs, People & Change Director at Transport for Wales said: “We’re proud to once again be supporting Samaritans’ Brew Monday campaign at stations across Wales to help spread the message that it is important everyone reaches out to check on family and friends and also takes time to look after their own mental health.  With almost two years of Covid-related restrictions, which has impacted on some people more than others, this vital awareness campaign is needed more than ever.”

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Krista Sexton, Head of Operational Risk at Network Rail added: “We’re proud to support Samaritans’ Brew Monday campaign as it provides a simple but effective way for us to reach out to our railway colleagues and loved ones who might be needing a little extra support. The past two years, during the pandemic, have been difficult on many people’s mental health but, we know, not everybody always wants to share their concerns. 

This poignant campaign reminds us to stop and listen and encourage those struggling to open up and have a chat over a cup of tea.” 

Lead image: Samaritans volunteer has a virtual catch up for Brew Monday. (Image: Abbie Trayler-Smith)

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Council launches new funding round to help communities thrive

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Swansea Council has launched a new round of funding for ideas that can bring new vibrancy to local communities.

The opportunity is part of Crowdfund Swansea, a scheme that helps deliver innovative community-led ideas to improve the city.

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Eligible projects could receive a council pledge of up to £5,000 towards their crowdfunding target.

To be in with a chance of securing the support, local groups should post their ideas on the Crowdfund Swansea web page by March 23.

Those who have succeeded in previous funding rounds have included the Swansea Hygiene Bank.

Project coordinator Lesley Lloyd said: “The funding will allow us to move into our own storage unit sooner than planned, enabling us to accept larger donations that we can pass on to more of those experiencing hygiene poverty in Swansea.”

Council cabinet member Andrew Stevens said: “We’re ready to support projects that put local people at the heart of the efforts to help Swansea kick on.

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“I’m also calling on companies and foundations to join us in offering support to ideas people post on Crowdfund Swansea. This could be in funding or in-kind – anything that can help make projects a real success.”

Crowdfund Swansea is run by the council with the UK’s leading civic crowdfunding platform Spacehive. It aims to fund and deliver ideas from and for the local community.

So far, more than 800 residents, businesses and other organisations have joined the council to get behind 18 ideas; more than £157,000 has been raised, boosting projects ranging from beach cleans to e-bike schemes and from harvesting fruit to providing sporting equipment.

Those interested in taking part in the next funding round of Crowdfund Swansea, as a funder or to fund your own project, can email info@spacehive.com.

Spacehive plan a free online workshop – from noon on February 8 – for anyone interested in learning more. To reserve a place go to www.bit.ly/CSworkshop0802.

Lead image: The Swansea Hygiene Bank in action. (Image: Swansea Hygiene Bank)

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