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Swansea unsung heroes saluted for pandemic support

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Unsung community heroes who have helped the people of Swansea through the pandemic were honoured at a special event.

Certificates were presented to more than 80 individuals and organisations – and trophies went to 34 others at a special awards evening at Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall

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The help they have provided to local communities during the Covid crisis has ranged from emergency food supplies to online social conversations and essential medical deliveries to family shopping.

The Brangwyn Hall Unsung Community Heroes awards evening was organised by Swansea Council.

It was supported by partners such as the BAME Mental Health Support, Swansea Bay University Health Board, Swansea Council for Voluntary Service, Swansea University and the Welsh Government.

Council deputy chief executive Adam Hill said: “The pandemic presented new and daunting challenges for our communities.

“The council and other organisations served in new ways with skill and dedication – and so did all the community heroes saluted at the Brangwyn Hall.

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“They went out of their way to help people across our diverse communities cope at a time of great difficulty for many.

“We thank them for all their efforts. They have been – and continue to be – standard bearers for our area’s rich public spirit and vital to community cohesion.”

When Covid struck in early 2020, individuals and organisations across Swansea were quick to help others in a wide variety of ways.

Their outstanding work and extraordinary contributions to the community were a big help to thousands.

This year, council community cohesion officers asked the public to nominate their unsung heroes – and hundreds of nominations were received.

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The subsequent Brangwyn Hall event featured music, food and entertainment supplied by people and organisations from local communities.

Those honoured included these groups and individuals.

Unsung heroes trophy winners

Swansea Muslim Community Service

The Swansea Muslim Community Service was set up by Aisha Rayhanna Amer during the pandemic. It was a response to the severity of the situation, with many families struggling to buy essentials

She collaborated with other Swansea women to help vulnerable local community members. The service’s volunteers include Aisha, Gulnahar Begum, Momena Ali, Shehla Khan, Khadija Salla Adeela Rashid, Farhana Ali, Fatiha Rahman and Shaz Abedean.

They distributed food packs and essentials and were the only service to operate seven days a week for people isolating throughout Swansea and some areas of Llanelli and Pontardawe.

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On one delivery, Aisha saved a life. When the service user didn’t answer the door she realised something was wrong so immediately called 999. Without Aisha’s swift action, the elderly man could have died.

Service members raised funds and teamed up with Swansea Council, the Swansea Mosque foodbank and the Fareshare scheme so that they could reach out as widely as possible.

The Lloyd Family

At the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, the Lloyd family – Claire, Lottie, Edward and Cassie – were one of the first to register with council local area coordinators as street champions in Uplands. Since that time, they have provided a valuable service to neighbours who include a vulnerable, isolated elderly woman living close by.

The children especially have offered remarkable support to her, knocking on her door regularly to ask if she needs anything. They entertain her with their stories of school and other activities. The woman is grateful of this wonderful support.

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BAME Mental Health Support (BMHS)

BMHS is a trusted voice when it comes to public health guidelines and early intervention health information for ethnic minorities in Wales.

The organisation played an active role throughout the pandemic, including vaccination knowledge campaigns and the provision of support to vulnerable community members.

Other achievements include raising the profile of the Mental Health Act 1983 reform and contributing to the overall aims and objectives of Wales’ Race Equality Action Plan.

The organisation is led by Alfred Oyekoya. He has helped provide training, health awareness sessions and dance classes – as well as helping in practical and tangible ways to several community members.

Lizan Abdullah

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Lizan received around 20 nominations for the Unsung Community Heroes awards. Since her arrival in the UK in 2019, she has supported Kurdish community members across Wales and specifically Swansea. She’s a member of the Kurdish All Wales Association. Lizan volunteers with various organisations providing diverse support. During Covid 19 she helped disadvantaged community members through food banks and interpreting. More recently, Lizan set up Kurdish classes for Kurdish children in Swansea and helps women to learn English.

Annaliese Gower

Annaliese has been a committee member at Penlan South Community Centre for five years. She’s worked behind the scenes there throughout the pandemic, undertaking many roles and responsibilities.

After an initial Covid response foodbank ended, the committee partnered with the Trussel Trust to continue this much-needed service. Since then, the food bank has supported up to 20 families a week. It works in partnership with several other organisations and services.

Additionally, Annaliese also started a school uniform bank. This was welcomed by local people. She has also organised discos for families to come together; she understands that attending parties and dressing up is beneficial for the social and emotional development of children. Annaliese has further plans for fundraising and bringing the community together.

Bukky Okunade

At the age of 27, Bukky lost her husband just four months after getting married in Swansea. Despite this, she reached out to others who are bereaved as a result of Covid 19. She volunteered to provide bereavement support by phone to ethnic minorities in Swansea. She uses her multilingual skill to normalise conversations about grief and she volunteers with BAME Mental Health Support.

Dr Rashid Malik

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Dr Malik leads Swansea’s Muslim Hospitality Service; this provides hot food and regular engagement opportunities for homeless people and refugees.

During Covid-19, he continued to support people in need and those who were isolating through provision of food packs and other assistance. He helped provide food to NHS staff as a gesture of appreciation. He arranged Christmas gifts and dinners for homeless people.

Dr Malik is well known within the community and has links with different organisations supporting disadvantaged people. His work is appreciated by members of different faiths and community groups.

The positive feedback on a charity he founded – the Sameera Foundation – and his Facebook pages is evidence of his value to community cohesion.

Lead image: Unsung Community Heroes trophy recipient Bukky Okunade (Image: Swansea Council)

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Transport for Wales

New trains for Wales and Borders services go on show

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Brand new trains that aim to transform services across Wales and the English borders have been on show today at Chester railway station.

Assembled by CAF at their factory in Newport, the first Class 197 train with its ‘Made in Wales’ tag was revealed to the public today (Friday 1 July), offering a taste of what’s to come for customers in the next few months.

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TfW are spending £800 million on new trains throughout their network and the Class 197 will be the first of the brand-new stock to enter service in North Wales before the end of this year.

Providing an increase in capacity, reduced emissions and enhanced comfort onboard, these trains will allow TfW to run faster and more frequent services to key routes including services in South West Wales – Manchester to Milford Haven, Cardiff to Fishguard and Swansea to Pembroke Dock.

Offering leather seats, modern air conditioning systems, wider doors and customer information screens, the new trains will transform the customer experience. They’ve also been fitted with electronic charging points and disability features for those with limited mobility.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change with responsibility for Transport, Lee Waters said: “I am pleased to welcome the new Class 197 trains to the rail network. These new vehicles represent a real transformational improvement on the trains that they will be replacing, providing comfortable and frequent services, encouraging people to leave their cars behind and move onto a more sustainable form of transport.”

Alexia Course, TfW’s Director of Transport Operations, said: “At Transport for Wales we’re continually moving forward with our transformational plans to improve public transport for the people of Wales and the borders.

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“The Class 197s on show at Chester railway station today will be an important part of the transformation of the Wales and Borders network, and when they enter service, they will enable us to run more services and carry more customers in comfort.

“The construction of our new trains has been four years in the making, and customers and colleagues are incredibly excited to welcome passengers onto them from later this year.

“It’s also important to recognise that these trains have been made in Wales at the CAF factory in Newport and the building of them has provided jobs and supported the local economy”.

Richard Garner, UK Director CAF said: “CAF is thrilled that the first of our Class 197 trains for the Wales and Borders network has been officially launched.

“We are immensely proud of our key role in delivering Transport for Wales’ vision to transform rail travel for passengers.

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“The manufacture of our trains is taking place at our state-of-the-art facility in Newport, South Wales. We see ourselves as a local manufacturer, supporting highly skilled jobs and bringing employment opportunities to the local area whilst focusing on sustainability issues and addressing the needs of the Welsh economy.

Our trains are being built in Wales to serve the Welsh communities”

(Lead image: Transport for Wales)

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Education

Pontarddulais school’s physical education department supported by Amazon

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A comprehensive school in Pontarddulais has received a £1,000 donation from the Amazon fulfilment centre in Swansea.

Pontarddulais Comprehensive School plans to use the donation to purchase new safety mats for use in PE lessons.

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They say this will allow their pupils to enjoy activities such as gymnastics and inspire more pupils to follow in the footsteps of their peers who have recently succeeded at a national level.

Christopher Law, General Manager at Amazon in Swansea, said: “At Amazon, we recognise the value of extra-curricular development, and we are pleased to lend a helping hand to Pontarddulais Comprehensive School with this donation. We wish the school well as it seeks to inspire and engage the leaders of tomorrow through both academic and physical education.”

Nigel Hughes, who is an engineer at Amazon in Swansea and put the school forward for the donation, added: “My children receive a fantastic education and genuine support at Pontarddulais Comprehensive School, and it’s great that Amazon is providing this donation to help fund new equipment.”

Julie Evans, Area Coordinator for Health and Wellbeing at Pontarddulais Comprehensive School, said: “We want to thank Christopher and the Amazon team in Swansea. This kind and generous donation will support us in continuing to create the high-quality facilities required for a first-class educational experience. It will be a great addition allowing us to strengthen and expand our school’s physical activity opportunities.”

The donation to Pontarddulais Comprehensive School was made as part of Amazon’s programme to support the communities in and around its operating locations across the UK.

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(Lead image: Pontarddulais Comprehensive School)

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Lifestyle

Swansea man’s delight as he scoops combined £37,000 cash-and-car prize

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A Swansea man who was feeling lucky during the working week was left in a state of delighted disbelief on finding out he had won a combined £37,000 cash-and-car prize with online competitions company BOTB.

Anthony Brain from Swansea could not believe his luck when BOTB’s Christian Williams picked up the phone to let him know he was the winner of its Midweek Lifestyle competition.

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Anthony, who works for Swansea-based automotive products company Marelli, scooped a brand new BMW 128ti, as well as a cash prize of £2,000.

After recovering from his initial shock, Anthony said: “It’s absolutely unbelievable – I’m over-the-moon and still on a real high from it. It’s rare that I take part in the Midweek Lifestyle Competition – I think I’ve only entered it once or twice before – but I was feeling lucky during the working week, so thought ‘why not?’ When I got the call to say I’d won, I was stunned.

“Being a car enthusiast, I’m really excited about winning the car but the cash is brilliant too. We’ve already booked some holidays with some of the winnings, including to Italy and Florida. It’s nice to have something to look forward to.”

Anthony said his prize win has prompted colleagues to throw their hat in the ring and give BOTB’s competitions a go.

He added: “The thing is you’ve got to be in it to win it – and I think once you know someone who has won, you feel more hopeful that you could be in with a chance. I’d encourage anyone thinking about entering to try it for themselves.”

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Other recent winners have bagged a motorbike, a luxury holiday to Barbados and £15,000 in cash. 

The company, listed on the stock market, was founded by William Hindmarch in 1999 and has given away more than £47m worth of cars so far. 

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