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Swansea student joins BBC Children in Need challenge

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A Swansea student is joining a group of five young people selected to take part in a new fundraising challenge for BBC Children in Need.

The Surprise Squad is made up of inspirational young people who have been supported by BBC Children in Need and want to give back and lend a helping hand to benefit others.

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Joined by The One Show presenters Alex Jones, Ronan Keating and Jermaine Jenas, the Surprise Squad will head to locations around the country where they will complete surprise challenges for BBC Children in Need funded projects that are in need of a little help with something – which could be anything from creating a secret garden for a children’s hospice, or organising a much needed community fundraising event to give a local project a boost.

The team of young people will deliver their surprises and complete them within a day. The One Show viewers will be able to watch how the surprises unfold each evening, whilst learning the young people’s inspiring stories, during BBC Children in Need Appeal Week.

Among the Surprise Squad is Gower College Swansea A Level student Nathan Pollard-Jones, who is 17.

Nathan was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia when he was 13 years old in 2018. He was an active teenager but was feeling fatigued so he went to the doctor and was eventually diagnosed with cancer. Nathan spent three years in treatment with a lot of time spent in hospital, which he found tough as he had to spend a lot of time away from school and his friends.

In addition, some of his treatment was delivered during Covid-19 which made things even harder as he had to isolate from family and friends to minimise his risk of catching it. Nathan has recently finished treatment and attends College, where he is studying A Levels.

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He has been supported by Teenage Cancer Trust, who receive funding from BBC Children in Need to deliver the Find Your Sense of Tumour weekend which helps young people rebuild their lives after cancer. They bring young people with cancer together to hear from experts, to get advice and most importantly, to be themselves and have fun.

Nathan said: “Having recently finished my cancer treatment, I feel so proud that I’m able to be a part of the Surprise Squad. I hope that the surprises we create make a huge difference to others who are facing challenges.”

The One Show’s Alex Jones will be joining the team during one of the surprises and said: “I’m excited to be back on the green sofa, and to be joining the Surprise Squad as they deliver these really special challenges for BBC Children in Need funded projects across the country. I can’t wait for the audience to see what the Squad get up to and I hope that they’re inspired by their incredible stories.”

Ronan Keating will also be joining the team for one of the surprises. He said: “We’re so excited to be delivering these surprises for worthy organisations across the country. We hope that these surprises will make a huge difference to those receiving them and we can’t wait to bring the audience along to see what the Surprise Squad get up to!”

Jermaine Jenas added: “I’m looking forward to seeing some of the amazing things that the Surprise Squad get up to, and how what they do will benefit communities across the country, and I hope that our audience love watching it all too!”

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The other members of the Surprise Squad are:

Ore, 19 from Barry, Wales.

Ore is a young carer who helps look after her younger sister Ire who is 14 and has Sickle Cell Disorder. Ore was the main carer for her mother, who passed away two years ago in October 2019 following many years of illness. Ore lives with her father and her sister. Ore is a passionate advocate for families who live with Sickle Cell Disorder – she wants to breakdown the stigma that can sometimes affect people with Sickle Cell Disorder. She also wants to highlight just how serious the impact of Sickle Cell Disorder can be on people’s lives and give people from all walks of life a better understanding of the condition. Ore has been supported by Friends of Cymru Sickle Cell and Thalassemia through their youth project and their home support service.

Ore said: “I’m so looking forward to being a part of the Surprise Squad and doing something that will make a huge difference to other children and young people across the country.”

Joseph, 19 from Liverpool.

Joseph has cerebral palsy and has been attending the BBC Children in Need funded project Stick ‘n’ Step since he was two years old. He says the project has changed his life in many ways, not least by teaching him how to walk. Joseph underwent a major operation in 2016 in which he had to learn to walk again, he has since recovered and now describes himself as someone with a hidden disability, as following his operation his disability is less prominent.  This can be difficult for him to explain though sometimes, as he stills finds certain moves or work that he doesn’t have strength for, hard to accomplish.

Joseph said: “Being part of the Surprise Squad this year is something that I’m really looking forward to. I want to share my story and hope that I can help raise money for other children and young people like me.”

Roisin, 16 from Derry/Londonderry, NI.

When Roisin was 14, she had a stroke which caused her life changing disabilities. She spent three months in hospital and had to relearn how to walk, talk and eat.  Up until then she had been a healthy teenager who loved singing and performing. Since having the stroke, things can be quite difficult for Roisin as she isn’t able to do all of the things that she used to but her confidence is being rebuilt and she’s looking forward to being a part of the Surprise Squad. Roisin has been supported by Brain Injury Matters who deliver a youth empowerment project with funding from BBC Children in Need.

Roisin said: “Being part of the Surprise Squad is a huge achievement for me. I’m really looking forward to helping make a difference that will benefit others. I hope that those who can do, donate.”

Dylan, 18 from Glasgow.

Dylan has autism. He developed a rare condition called MDP Syndrome when he was 18 months old, finally receiving a diagnosis aged 10. MDP only affects him and 15 other people in the world and it causes deafness, fat loss under the skin, joint stiffness and eye problems. Dylan is really passionate about raising awareness of his condition, throughout his school life he has delivered speeches to his classmates about MDP and also uses his skills in photography to do this, as he is a passionate and talented photographer. He has been supported by Indepen-dance for many years, which delivers dance sessions for disabled young people.

Dylan said: “I have spent my life raising awareness for my condition with school friends and my wider community.  I’m really looking forward to being able to share my story with The One Show viewers. I hope I can help to raise money that will go on to support other young people like me.”

Rob Unsworth, Head of The One Show said: “This year we really want to give a helping hand to some of the projects that have been funded by BBC Children in Need. The Surprise Squad will help provide a little bit of magic to projects across the country, whilst sharing their inspiring stories too.”

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Tommy Nagra, Director of Content at BBC Children in Need said: “It’s fantastic The One Show are back with a brand new challenge this year. The amazing stories of the young people overcoming their own challenges to thank, surprise and delight  others in need  is truly inspiring .  We hope viewers at home are equally inspired by their efforts. Please tune in to The One Show to see the amazing things this remarkable team of young people achieve!” 

For details on how to donate and support The Surprise Squad for BBC Children in Need visit www.bbc.co.uk/pudsey 

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Ospreys star helps kick off mental health awareness week activities

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As Action for Children marks Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May), the charity recently celebrated its Bouncing Back Plus mental health partnership with Ospreys in the Community with a huge event at the Academy of Sport in Llandarcy.

Hundreds of primary school children joined the celebrations and were treated to rugby sessions, craft workshops, music therapy and mental health classes with Ospreys star, Lloyd Ashley.

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The charity teamed up with the rugby region’s community arm over the autumn and spring terms to deliver a combination of classroom-based Cognitive and Dialectical behavioural therapy (CBT and DBT) techniques and physical exercises such as touch rugby on the playground.

Bouncing Back Plus has become increasingly important as recent Action for Children research showed nearly a third of children across UK (32%) said that school does not provide enough emotional support for them with 28% of parents agreeing.

The children the charity polled in Wales were the least satisfied with support received in schools with 28% saying they received a great or good amount of practical support and only a quarter (25%) reporting getting the same level of emotional support.

Primary school kids from the Ospreys region enjoying craft sessions

Caryl Dyer manages the Bouncing Back Plus programme for Action for Children in the region and said: “The celebration was wonderful. We wanted to run an event to celebrate the success of the programme as we’ve worked with 15 primary schools and almost 800 children in 6 months. The programme is critical for the mental health and wellbeing of our primary school children especially in light of the Covid-blighted period they have been through.

“We wanted to invite everyone along and enjoy a bit of normality and the elements of mental wellbeing and physical exercise in lots of different workshops. It’s been a roaring success working with Ospreys in the Community, the partnership has gone from strength to strength and it’s a pleasure to be a part of it,” she added.

Holly, 11, from Coed Hirwaun Primary School enjoyed the celebration and said: “It’s been really good and a lot of fun. We did lots of activities and I really liked doing ‘capture the flag’ and making stress balls.”

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Tyler, also 11, from Pontlliw Primary School, added: “The day was fun, I enjoyed the rugby and the stress ball class. I enjoyed all of it, really.”

The children enjoyed a host of physical exercise activities as well as wellbeing sessions

At the end of each Bouncing Back Plus programme, each participant receives a Mental Health First Aid Kit, providing them with resources that support them to manage their mood and sustain improvements in their emotional wellbeing. The process also supports us to identify those young people who may need a higher-tier intervention.

Tom Sloane, Foundation Manager at Ospreys in the Community, said: ‘It’s really good to see that this programme is around supporting kids, building confidence, resilience and supporting mental health and wellbeing through physical and emotional sessions.

“The celebration ties off the last two years really nicely and it’s great to do that in partnership with Action for Children.

“It’s a really positive relationship we’ve got as official charity partners and we’re looking forward to the next year working together as this programme grows and hopefully, we can help even more children.’

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Kidney charity unveils new name and revamped branding

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After nine years of providing unrivalled support and care to the kidney community of Wales, the Paul Popham Fund, Renal Support Wales, is changing its name and revamping its branding.

The charity is now called: Popham Kidney Support.

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The re-brand signifies an important transition for the charity that includes a new name, logo and website. The charity opted to rebrand following a trustees meeting where the name was discussed. It was thought that the former name did not clearly explain what the charity offers. The new name, Popham Kidney Support, does exactly that, while also maintaining and recognising the historical origins of the organisation.

Popham Kidney Support was set up in 2012 and is managed by the friends and family of the late Paul Popham. The trustees felt that Popham must remain in the name, and this is also reflected in the logo, where Paul Popham’s handwriting is seen in its design. The brand colours have also stayed the same. The colour green implies new growth, vibrant health and also has connotations of rebirth and renewal, an apt description of what the rebrand represents.

The inclusion of a butterfly in the new logo design was chosen as a symbol of transformation, mirroring the sole objective for the charity which is to transform the lives of kidney patients. The butterfly wings are also made up of two kidney shapes, once again keeping a consistent theme that is relevant to what the organisation offers.

Popham Kidney Support’s rebrand journey began in September last year, and the trustees have been through various stages of feedback. This has included offering the service users and followers of the charity the opportunity to give their opinion on the new name and the logo design. Keeping an open dialogue between the charity and its service users, volunteers and stakeholders was an important aspect of the process for the trustees.

Additionally, the charity recently announced two new ambassadors: TV chef Matt Tebbutt and Welsh TV presenter Sian Lloyd, both of whom will aid the charity in reaching its fundraising goal. The goal for Popham Kidney Support is to raise £132,000 for the Children’s Kidney Centre, Cardiff and it has recently surpassed £30,000.

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Sian Lloyd, Popham Kidney Support ambassador, said: “The new name is an exciting new chapter for the charity, offering a new clear direction into its 10th year.”

Matt Tebbutt, Popham Kidney Support ambassador, said: “I wish Popham Kidney Support the best of luck with its rebrand. The new name and logo are now an appropriate symbol of what they do. I am pleased to help such a fantastic charity that provides vital support to those with kidney disease in Wales.”

The new name and logo were unveiled at the charity’s Supporters Celebration on April 29 at the Mercure Hotel, Swansea. In attendance were the trustees and employees of Popham Kidney Support, its service users, volunteers and stakeholders, all of whom have helped the charity support everyone affected by kidney disease in Wales, and a guest appearance from former Swansea City footballer, Lee Trundle.

Joanne Popham, CEO of Popham Kidney Support, said: “We are extremely pleased with the result of the rebrand. It was important to the trustees and myself to recognise the history of the charity, and we have done that by keeping Popham in the name and my dad, Paul Popham’s handwriting within the logo, keeping his legacy alive.

We believe the new name and logo clearly signifies what we do, it says, no one is alone in their journey, the charity is here to support them. Though we have seen a rebirth of the charity, our aims remain the same: to ensure our community of people with kidney disease can experience life to the fullest!”

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Welsh family charity encourages mums to ask for help if they are struggling as part Maternal Mental Health Week campaign

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A Welsh family support charity is encouraging mums to talk about their wellbeing and reach out for support if they need it as part of a campaign for Maternal Mental Health Week (May 2-8).

Home-Start Cymru is raising awareness among local mums to let them know that in addition to clinical services, vital peer support is available in their area through the charity’s network of confidential, trained volunteers.

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Bethan Webber, Chief Executive of Home-Start Cymru, said: “For Maternal Mental Health Week, we are encouraging families to talk about their wellbeing and not be afraid to ask for help. There is still a real stigma around talking openly about parental mental health.

“We would love to encourage mums who are feeling overwhelmed to take the brave decision to reach out for support.  Parenting is hard. It can be wonderful, but it can also be lonely and relentless. That is why Home-Start Cymru is ready to stand alongside families when they need us most with compassionate, non-judgmental support.”

Home-Start Cymru supports mums’ mental health with trained volunteers through a range of activities, including wellbeing walks in the community, 1-2-1 support in the home, weekly group support groups and virtual catch-ups.

Leanne Joy, a Home-Start Cymru volunteer who has experienced perinatal mental health herself, said: “After rounds of IVF, I fell pregnant with my first, and after giving birth, I had everything I wanted, but I didn’t feel how I should be feeling. I felt the loneliest and most vulnerable I had ever felt. I was lucky to be referred by my GP and supported by the perinatal mental health team.”

The mother of two from Cardiff continues, “After my diagnosis and treatment, I wanted to give back and found Home-Start Cymru by chance. This was my opportunity to help parents who are experiencing the same as me. I really wanted to help others feel less alone and make a difference for those who feel there is no way out. Because there’s a way out. You just have to reach out.”

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Meirwen Jones, Head of Operations for Home-Start Cymru, said: “Home-Start plays a vital role in providing non-judgemental peer support in people’s homes alongside group support. This year’s theme of Maternal Mental Health Week is fitting as it is ‘The Power of Connections’.

“We know only too well how not being able to see family and friends has been difficult throughout the pandemic. Home-Start harnesses the power of human connection to support families facing mental health challenges in the perinatal period.

“The excellent support our staff and trained volunteers provide has an amazing impact on families – because we truly are stronger together.”

Meirwen continues: “We understand the value of face to face connections, especially for first time mums. Reaching out for support either to family and friends, a professional such as your midwife or health visitor, or getting in touch with a local community organisation such as Home-Start Cymru could be the first step to make a positive difference. 

“The impact on families can be amazing – because we truly are stronger together. In the meantime, we want to remind mums to remember they are brilliant, remind them to take breaks, remember self-care, know that parenting is tough and most of all remember that parenting is not always the picture-perfect lifestyle often portrayed on social media.”

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Another mum who was supported by Home-Start said: “Please don’t shy away from asking for help. We all have limits and it’s important to recognise them. Looking back I probably had post-natal depression but didn’t realise it at the time.

“To me, Home-Start support was like taking the weight off your shoulders for a while, so you can be the parent you want to be. Without Home-Start I think I would have fallen into a deep depression, but I didn’t and that’s thanks to my volunteer.”

Home-Start Cymru works across 18 local authorities in Wales providing compassionate support to local families who are facing a wide range of challenges including mental health, bereavement, isolation, multiple births, domestic abuse, financial hardship or supporting a parent or child who has a disability or health issue.

Once a family is matched, their trained volunteer visits once a week for two hours to support in a wide variety of ways that meet the individual needs of that family.

Maternal Mental Health Week, which is into its eighth year, is a campaign dedicated to talking about mental health problems during and after pregnancy.

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The week focuses on raising public and professional awareness of perinatal mental health problems, advocating for women affected, changing attitudes and helping families access the information, care and support they need to recover.

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