Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Light up the community

Shakira holding an owl at the Llandysil Dragon Festival
Volunteering at Ponthafren Association age 8!

Shakira volunteers at Ponthafren Association in Newtown. As many readers of this blog will know, Ponthafren Association is a registered charity in North Powys for people with mental health issues or those that feel lonely or isolated. The charity has an open door policy (meaning anyone is welcome). It is based in Newtown with an outreach centre in Welshpool and also a weekly drop-in session in Llanidloes.

Ponthafren provides a range of courses from arts and crafts to basic skills to anger management. A lot of these courses are Open College Network (OCN) qualifications. The organisation has approximately six hundred members. 

Shakira was only 8 when she started volunteering (she is 11 now), and we decided to find out more about what she does and why she enjoys it so much.

I first started going along to Ponthafren when I was eight years old as both my Nan and Granddad volunteer there. My Nan runs a craft group on a Friday evening called “Arty crafters”. We make cards, bug homes, wind chimes, paper machie snowmen and a lot of other items. My sister and me are in the PR (public relations) group in Ponthafren also. 

We go along to shows, carnivals, fairs and other community events. We take leaflets and flyers along, also the craft items we have made. We sell these and the money goes back into Ponthafren. We tell people about Ponthafren and what everyone does. This helps to let people know that Ponthafren might be the place for them if they ever need support. Also by telling people about Ponthafren and talking about mental health helps to get rid of the stigma that seems to be attached to it.

Shakira helping at a stall at a local show
Another busy day waking up at five o’clock in the morning, getting ready to go off to do a stall for Ponthafren. I help make lots of money for Ponthafren by making all sorts of craft items, for example wooden wheelbarrows, bug boxes, occasional cards and much more.

We have been to lots of villages and towns with our stalls. Usually at these events and at the open days I paint people's nails and charge £1 that goes into a fundraising pot for Ponthafren.

Me and my sister, Billie-jo, went to help out at Welshpool open day. We served tea and coffee from 10.30 am to 4 pm. Another open day but this time in Newtown we stayed at my Nan’s and we were wrapping up extra lucky dip prizes, sorting items, and labelling things ready for the next day.

Shakira and her sister receive a certificate for 200
volunteering hours from Russell George AM.
Recently my sisters and I went with the Arty crafters group and public relations group to Llandudno. We were thankful for good weather. We sat on the beach and shared a picnic with the seagulls. We went in the sea but it was pretty cold.

At the last open day Assembly Minister Russell George came along and presented us with a certificate to say we have completed two hundred volunteering hours. We had a letter from the House of Commons saying congratulations on what we have achieved and keep up the good work. 

I go with Nan sometimes to different group and organisations, where she gives a presentation all about Ponthafren. We provide a hand on craft session but some people struggle with threading beads or gripping scissors. So I help them and I have a really good time and learn a lot from doing this.

The garden volunteers from Ponthafren go out and help members of the community with their garden by weeding and generally tidying up. On a weekend or in school holidays I go and help.

I like volunteering and it shows that even at my age there is always something you can do to help the community and have fun while you are doing it.

Many thanks to Shakira for telling us all about her volunteering experiences - 200 hours - wow! Have you any stories about your experience volunteering for mental health that you could share with us? Let us know.

Find out more about Ponthafren Association's volunteers on the organisation's website here.

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