Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Ponthafren: out of hours, full of ideas

Chinese Night at Ponthafren Association
Barbara Perkins has been working at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (PAVO) for three years now as the Community Voice Officer for the One Powys – Connecting Voices project. Originally three days a week, this post went down to one day earlier this year as planned in the original lottery funded bid and in May she started a new role as the Out of Hours Centre Facilitator at the mental health charity Ponthafren Association in Newtown, North Powys.

I caught up with Barbara on one of her PAVO days at our Plas Dolerw base to find out more about her new role.

Tell us more about your role at Ponthafren

I have the great job of working with members of Ponthafren on two days a week. I organise information evenings and social evenings. 

Of an evening I will chat to members and this gives us a chance to get to know each other. It may be that someone will pop in and see me because they are dealing with a particular crisis and need a bit of support or it may be they will pop in looking for company or advice on local services. 

Everyone is welcome and at an annual membership fee of £2 Ponthafren is a great place to be involved with. Just recently we held a Chinese evening with members arranging a Chinese meal to sit down and share together.

Every evening is different but all are interesting

How is the new job going so far?

I have been well looked after both by staff and management but most of all by Marg. Marg is a dedicated volunteer who comes in every Monday and Wednesday evening to ensure the quality of service at Ponthafren. As one of the longest serving members of the team, Marg has taken me under her wing and helped me navigate through the first few months in this new job.

What do you bring to your new role from your experience as the Community Voice Officer?

As the Community Voice Coordinator at PAVO I was already fortunate enough to be working with the Ponthafren YAPS* project and was aware of the valuable work being undertaken at Ponthafren. PAVO has a huge amount of information and can signpost both individuals and organisations to the many, many services available in Powys. Awareness of the role of third sector brokers and, of course, knowledge of Info Engine (Welsh online services directory) has been very helpful. In addition, in my working life I have gained experience in third sector services, social housing, learning disabilities, the benefits system and domiciliary support (yes I have lived quite a long time :0). I feel that all these experiences contribute to my life skills which I am able to make use of and share in this new job.

*The Young Adult Peer Support project offers peer support mentoring to young people (16-25 years old) who experience mental health issues by helping to give them a voice of their own in the development of services.

Housing advice session with Auden from
Mid Wales Housing Association
What kind of activities have you been organising for the members? Which are the most popular so far? 

If anyone reading this article wonders what is already on the Newtown Ponthafren calendar for future evenings, I can tell you that we have more from story teller Rod Evans, film night, your housing questions answered, meal deal night, woodcarving, nocook cooking to name but a few. We also organise video links with our Welshpool centre and members can chat with each other over the internet.

You work with volunteers at the Centre, what qualities/skills are you looking for in new volunteers?

If anyone is interested in looking for volunteering opportunities then Ponthafren can provide free training to provide a better understanding of what it means to be a volunteer. Everyone has useful skills that can be valuable and volunteering can be a good way to identify them and put them to best use. Whether you are a natural talker or listener, very creative, like to make everything neat and tidy or are a whizz on computer games and computers, everyone has skills. You may be a gardener or love to garden (yes, some people do enjoy pulling weeds) or a handyman or be blessed with other skill. Why not share them and look at the opportunities to volunteer.

If someone was feeling isolated or a bit down and considering calling in to a Ponthafren evening session but was feeling unsure, what would you say?

The biggest step if you are feeling isolated is walking through that front door for the first time. Why not have a look on our website or our notice board outside the centre and see what is going on. You may be able to find an activity that you could sign up for (perhaps with someone else). You are also welcome to pop in on a Monday or Wednesday 16.30 – 21.00 and just ask for Barbara. I will happily introduce myself and colleagues and members and show you around. It will also provide an opportunity to learn more about what we can do to help you.

Curry night cooking in the Ponthafren kitchen
What are the main challenges of the role?

TIME – every evening goes by in a flash and inevitably we are trying to get things done. It is important to be there for the members and some evenings are very very busy but some can be very chilled.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done with Ponthafren to date

I recently approached one of our members to ask if he could do some volunteering for a day helping at an event. He actually thanked me for the opportunity when I was so very grateful for the difference he had made with his hard work. WOW that was humbling.

When you are not working for Ponthafren, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I am currently spending time getting fit. In January I had actually started using a walking stick at times. I am now averaging about 4-5 miles (our poor dog is exhausted) a day along with some weightlifting (not very feminine but good fun) so feeling so much fitter. I also volunteer for a group called Meeting Point Montgomeryshire (MPM) which organises events once a month that are available to anyone who is feeling socially isolated. The events are fully wheelchair accessible.

To find out more about the Late Night Openings at Ponthafren Association in Newtown, please ring 01686 621586 or email


  1. Barbara and Margret who work in Ponthafren in the evening are really helpful in many ways. In the activities they arrange and for the advice and wisdom they both hold.

    1. Hi Graham

      Barbara has asked me to reply: "Really glad we can be of help. It's what we're there for."

      Many thanks for commenting.