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Friends drive 2,000 miles in just 36 hours for charity

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Three Pembrokeshire men have raised over £3,000 for the Wales Air Ambulance by completing a 2,000 mile charity drive in just 36 hours!

Owen Hughes, 30, Chris Williams, 34, and Dean Murphy, 28, set off in their Skoda Fabia estate car from Fishguard to John O’Groats, then to Lands’ End and back. They hoped to complete the challenge, which was named the O.C.D Charity Drive after the initials of their names, within 48 hours.

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Lorry driver, Owen, said: “It all went really well, it was better than expected. We had a good run and only got held up for 45 minutes. We took it in turns driving and basically kept the car moving all the time and finished it much quicker than expected.”

The men from Fishguard smashed their original target of £1,000 by raising £3,050 for the lifesaving charity.

Wales Air Ambulance offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’. The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care.

Wales Air Ambulance has four aircraft based across Wales, in Dafen, Caernarfon, Welshpool and Cardiff.

Now operational 24/7, the Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep the helicopters flying.

The trio were delighted with the support they received from local companies and public. Before the charity drive, they had a few problems with their car and their sponsors helped source parts to make sure the car was ready for the challenge.

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Owen, said: “It is amazing, we set out to raise £1,000 and we smashed that amount. All three of us are delighted about how much we’ve raised. We’ve had really good support from local companies, especially in Cardigan, and we received a lot of donations through our Just Giving page.”

During the charity drive the men also received a donation online from people they didn’t know that had passed them a few times throughout the challenge.

Since completing their challenge the men have sold the car and donated the £600 also to the fundraiser.

Reflecting on why they wanted to raise funds for the Wales Air Ambulance, Owen added: “We’re all bikers and with covid-19 affecting fundraising events we wanted to give something back to the Wales Air Ambulance. Hopefully it is something we will never need to use, but it is there if we need it. As a charity they are not government funded. We’ve raised the money to keep the vital, life-saving charity going, as anyone can need it at any time!”

Katie Macro, the Charity’s South West Wales Community Fundraiser coordinator, said: “A huge thank you to Owen, Carl and Dean for raising over £3,000 for our lifesaving charity. They set off to complete the mammoth drive in just 48 hours but smashed that target by returning home within 36 hours. The amount of money they’ve raised has reflected their dedication to raise funds for a charity that they wanted to support.

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“Thank you to everyone who has supported them throughout the O.C.D Charity Drive and donated to the Wales Air Ambulance. Every donation is so important to us. By keeping our helicopters in the air we can continue to take the emergency department to the patient, saving time and saving lives.”

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Swansea resident stars in film for homelessness charity Crisis

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Social justice documentary photographer and filmmaker, Alice Aedy, has produced two hard hitting and uplifting documentary films exploring the lives and experiences of two people who have experienced homelessness.

Working alongside Brother Film, a south London based production company, and award-winning director, Lucy Werrett, Alice Aedy’s films focus on the stories of Sylmarine and Swansea-resident John, their experiences of homelessness, and life in their new accommodation.

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Leading furniture retailer DFS, and Crisis, the national charity for people experiencing homelessness, commissioned Alice to create these films to showcase the incredible work that Crisis does to help those experiencing homelessness into permanent accommodation. The films also demonstrate how something as simple as a sofa can help people settle into their new homes and make it their own.

DFS has partnered with Crisis to donate sofas to members who have recently moved into new accommodation. A sofa means that Crisis members have somewhere to relax comfortably and enables them to have family and friends over, offering a welcoming space to be proud of – something that can help boost wellbeing and mental health.

Alice Aedy said: “Following the stories of John and Sylmarine through these films was an uplifting, but emotional experience. Hearing about their struggles with homelessness opens your eyes to the challenges faced by thousands of people up and down the UK and it’s a problem that is only growing.

“Crisis does extraordinary work to help those affected by homelessness and I hope these films serve as inspiration to those working to end homelessness and reassure those currently experiencing similar stories to John and Sylmarine.”

Kiran Ramchandani, Director of Policy and External Affairs at Crisis, said: “Across Britain, 227,000 families and individuals are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness – this includes people sleeping on the streets, stuck in insecure accommodation like B&Bs, or forced to sleep in cars and sheds because they don’t have a place to call home.

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“Crisis’ mission is to end homelessness, and, through our services, we support people to find permanent housing. Our partnership with DFS is so important as it turns houses into homes where people feel safe, settled and can rebuild their lives.

“We’re grateful to Alice Aedy for telling the powerful stories of two people we support and doing so with such care and humanity.”

John from Swansea talked about his experiences of homelessness, and how charity Crisis have helped

Joanne Shawcroft, Group People Director at DFS, said: “Being comfortable in our own home is something many of us take for granted. A safe, secure and welcoming space can play an important role in helping people rebuild their lives and through our partnership with Crisis, we are proud to have helped many people to feel more at home.

“With the support of Crisis, we’re donating £200,000 of furniture to people who have experienced homelessness, just like John and Sylmarine.”

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Swansea Building Society marks milestone by donating to foodbanks

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Driven by concerns over the cost of living crisis affecting many of its customers, Swansea Building Society has made a generous donation to five foodbanks across South Wales – a move that also ties in with an important landmark for the mutual.

The Building Society has donated £500 to each foodbank, a move than mirrors its own achievement, also announced this month, of passing the remarkable milestone of securing £500 million in total assets.

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The Society has made the donations to help the local foodbanks provide vital support to people who find themselves unable to afford basic food and necessities during the ongoing economic issues faced by many in the South Wales area.

The foodbanks which have benefitted from the donations are Bridgend, Carmarthen, Neath, Llanelli and Sketty.

Four of the five foodbanks that received donations from Swansea Building Society are supported by The Trussell Trust and are part of a nationwide network of foodbanks working to combat poverty and hunger across the UK. The fifth foodbank, Sketty, is run by the local church.

In 2020 to 2021, The Trussell Trust’s Foodbank Network provided 2,537,198 three-day emergency food supplies and support to UK people in crisis. Of these, 980,082 went to children.

Swansea Building Society has achieved considerable success over recent years, with its total assets, mortgage balances, savings, capital and profits all reaching record highs. Its most recent set of figures has seen it hit the landmark £500 million in total assets for the first time in its 99-year history.

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The Society makes regular donations to local charities and community groups throughout the year. However, on passing the significant £500 million milestone, it decided it should recognise its success by making further donations to help those facing financial hardship within the communities it serves.

Alun Williams, Chief Executive of Swansea Building Society, said: “We are very proud of the success the Society has achieved in recent years. Passing this incredibly significant £500 million mark in assets is a great achievement for everyone involved in the society – its staff and its members.

“We wanted to mark this milestone by giving something extra back to local communities across South Wales. Current economic conditions are challenging for many people, with many struggling financially and unable to afford basic food for themselves and their families. The work that organisations like the Trussell Trust and Salvation Army do to help those most in need is laudable and we wanted to recognise this with our donations.”

Lead image: David Osterland, Cowbridge Branch Manager and Vicy Toutt, cashier at Cowbridge branch hand check to volunteers at Bridgend Foodbank

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Pembrokeshire charity recruits community fuel champions

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Pembrokeshire FRAME has received funding to recruit a community fuel co-ordinator and five volunteer champions as they look to raise awareness about energy efficiency, whilst tackling fuel poverty across the county.

The funding from gas emergency and pipeline service, Wales & West Utilities, will allow the charity to act as a community point of contact for those facing fuel poverty issues and will help to make a positive difference to local communities most in need.

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The employed advisor and five volunteer champions will help individuals claim benefits, provide debt management advice and make referrals through to Wales & West Utilities existing network of partnerships. They will also be able sign people up to the Priority Services Register (PSR), make referrals for specialist support with fitting Locking Cooker Valves and distribute free carbon monoxide alarms.

Gas emergency and pipeline service, Wales & West Utilities, has provided the funding as part of its Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance (VCMA).

Paul Hughes, Chief Officer at Pembrokeshire FRAME, said: “This funding will allow us to deliver far-reaching benefits. Not only will it allow us to get into the heart of Pembrokeshire communities to help those most in need to gain specific advice on energy efficiency and gas safety, but it will allow us to provide employment and volunteering opportunities to local people.

“We are all feeling the impacts of the rising costs of living, and this funding will allow us to run a 5 day a week hotline for fuel poverty and carbon monoxide enquiries, whilst having face to face contact across communities.

“It’s great that Wales & West Utilities is supporting our efforts by providing this funding and we are hopeful that many people will benefit.”

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Pembrokeshire FRAME is a supported employment and life changing charity that transforms hundreds of lives in Pembrokeshire each year, by providing access to learning, supported and meaningful occupation, voluntary and employment opportunities and help and support to enable individuals to reach their potential. The community fuel champion will be based at the charity’s Merlin Bridge site, however, will also work in Pembroke Dock.

Tom Robinson, Social Obligations Specialist at Wales & West Utilities, said: “We’re delighted that this funding will allow Pembrokeshire FRAME to support the most vulnerable by providing vital energy efficiency advice and safety information.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to support those most in need in our communities. Working with trusted partners like Pembrokeshire FRAME means we can help more people stay safe in their own homes.”

Between April 2021 to March 2026, Wales & West Utilities has £7m to spend on projects which support consumers in vulnerable situations and raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide and keep people safe from the ‘silent killer’.

Carbon monoxide (CO), known as the ‘silent killer’ because you can’t see it, smell it or taste it, kills 50 people a year in England and Wales and hospitalises many more. In the UK, there are more than 4,000 visits to Accident & Emergency for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning – which can often lead to lasting neurological damage. Even low levels of exposure over an extended period can cause serious health issues, including brain injuries.

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Funding is made from the Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance (VCMA), and 75% of the money will be spent on projects relevant to Wales and south west England only, while 25% will be spent on collaborative projects with the other gas networks across the whole of the UK.

(Lead image: Wales & West Utilities)

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