Shining a spotlight on our community partners

Thu 14 Mar 2024

Tai Tarian and YMCA staff with a donation for the centre's food bank

Social prescribing is a healthcare approach that connects people with non-medical support available in their community. We have lots of wonderful organisations locally who are making a huge difference to people’s wellbeing through a range of services and activities.

Over the last few years, we have regularly supported the YMCA Neath, enhancing their outdoor space, providing raffle prizes and equipment for various groups, with one of our staff members, Josh even running the London Marathon to raise almost £5,000 for their baby bank! 

We caught up with manager, Jess to find out more about the difference they make:

Tell us more about the YMCA and what you offer the local community
YMCA Neath is a thriving charitable organisation, providing a wide range of educational, recreational, and sporting activities for people of all ages. A wholly self-funded, non-profit making organisation, YMCA Neath offers a relaxed and friendly environment to learn new skills and meet new people.

The main beneficiaries of YMCA Neath include the local community, focusing on young people, low-income families, vulnerable individuals, those suffering social isolation and those in need of support and advice.

We pride ourselves in working in a non-judgemental way, recognising the importance of individuality. Our approach is to provide not only a safe, welcoming environment but to also support and encourage users to reach their full potential.

How many people do you support on a weekly basis and what sort of things do they enjoy?
This varies every week, but we have seen a big increase in visitors as we expanded our programme to fit our community’s needs.

Popular groups include our friendship groups, LGBTQIA+ youth group and adult group, our computer club, craft groups, gardening club, gym, martial arts, gymnastics and walking football. We have sessions with Platfform, The Wallich, NPT Mind, Marauders, Zumba, clubbercise, Dance Wales UK, and not forgetting our community clothes shop.  There is so much going on!

We are also home to a baby bank where we supply those in need with basics such as nappies and milk.  We recognise the value of every person who uses our centre and we believe that the YMCA has a responsibility to support our local community.

Anything new planned for 2024?
We are in the process of opening a community kitchen and pantry 'Love and Leftovers' to provide free meals and food bank parcels. Many individuals and families struggle with food insecurity and do not have consistent access to healthy and nutritious meals. We will provide nutritious, warm meals and refreshments plus access to education and new skills relating to healthy, sustainable affordable living. This will help ensure that no edible food goes to waste while supporting health and wellbeing within our community. We have recently started a new gardening club with hopes to grow our own produce to support the kitchen project - from seed to plate.

How do people hear about what you have going on?
People can learn about the activities and events at YMCA Neath through various channels including social media and our website 

New members are always welcome, with our friendly team on hand to make you feel comfortable and safe.

Another wonderful organisation supporting people’s wellbeing locally is Canolfan Maerdy.

Our first involvement with them was back in 2022 when we were able to source £10,000 of funding from the Welsh Procurement Alliance to transform their outdoor space into a community garden. Since then, we have made several donations to their fundraising efforts and food bank.

We caught up with Manager Anna to find out more about the difference they make:

Tell us more about Canolfan Maerdy
We are a multifunction community hub, with excellent services that support local people. It’s a collaborative effort with lots of partners to regenerate our once vibrant local economy. Our work is focused on the upper Amman Valley with links and engagement into Carmarthenshire and the upper Swansea Valley. 

As a community focused and led organisation we have long been a pathfinder organisation, identifying new needs in the community and developing services, often with partners. A great example would be general interest, adult learning courses and clubs, often provided free by volunteers at the library or at very subsidised rates.

Courses and clubs are great for boosting people’s confidence and getting to know new people. What else is popular?
So much! Our warm hub is open every Monday and sees 20-30 people join us week in, week out, it’s created a lovely sense of community. The cost-of-living crisis has seen a need for us to provide food boxes for local people. Boxes are made up every Friday from surplus food supplies from several sources and are currently benefitting 300 individuals a month. They are filled with vegetables, fruits, meat or fish, ready meals, bakery items plus tinned or dried essentials.

Three of our venues have been established for growing, with and for the community. Being involved in volunteering is great for people’s wellbeing and it also supports our food bank, as surplus food supplies can run low.

Our community café is popular with locals as it offers affordable healthy meals and another chance to socialise. It also supplies a meals on wheels service and our Lots of Tots creche with healthy meals and snacks. Healthy eating and cooking sessions for children and young people have also been well received at the café.

Our community transport provision supports 30-40 people every week with their commuting needs, we can help get them to medical appointments, out and about shopping, visiting friends or coming to the café.

CVS hold drop-in sessions once a month and CAB are here every other week to offer advice to local residents, it’s great to have that available face-to-face. We also sign-post people to agencies that can help them, whatever their circumstances, we really are a one stop shop. We want people to drop in and see us and let us know what they need or are looking for.

What about the younger generation?
Lots of Tots support around 80 families weekly through childcare, Flying Start, Childcare Offer of Wales, breakfast, after school and holiday club. It’s been established for 35 years so a trusted part of the local community.

Our youth club for young people between 11-16 is very popular, the chance to make friends, learn new skills and get out of the house. 

How do people hear about what you have going on?
Mainly social media, posters, word of mouth or other agencies who work with us.

Anything on the horizon for 2024
Towards the end of this year, Lots of Tots crèche will be celebrating 35 years since first established so we can’t wait to mark that milestone!  We have been able to purchase additional electric vehicles due to grant funding so are looking to extend our transport offering with further mobility modifications for use within our community.