Long-term volunteer continues to help community as part of UWTSD Widening Access team


University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) Widening Access team is working in partnership with a local Community Centre on a project led by long-term centre volunteer and now staff member at UWTSD, Elisha Hughes.

Elisha began volunteering at the not-for-profit, volunteer-led Blaen y Maes Drop In Centre at the age of 12 when her mum, Karen took it over in 2011. A valued and well-used space for local people, the Centre’s services include a foodbank, community clothing shop, garden to grow vegetables, litter-picking hub and a food share scheme that distributes free food rescued from landfill, as well as providing access to many other resources such as computers, printing and free counselling.

“The Drop-In Centre is constantly looking for opportunities and funding to support its vision and respond to the needs of the community,” Elisha says. “Over the years we’ve applied for and secured grants that have enabled us to deliver projects that upskill and provide opportunities to local people, such as the creation of a community cookbook that was featured on the BBC and mentioned in Parliament as a response to tackling food poverty.”

Elisha grew up in the Blaen y Maes community and explains: “It's about getting people's voices heard and putting the community on the map. The constant drive for all the volunteers here is having that lived experience, a sense of connection and wanting to create and shape a better present and future.”

Now a Widening Access Officer at UWTSD, Elisha has been able to help develop such a connection between the Centre and the University, leading to the organisations working in partnership to provide opportunities for the local community to engage in family and adult learning activities. Funded and supported by UWTSD’s Widening Access department and its commitment to the Reaching Wider Partnership, the project has engaged with over 60 families and 200 community members to date.

Group of children at Blaen Y Maes community drop in centre

Activities aimed towards removing barriers that would otherwise stop participant engagement have included sessions focused on well-being, nature, arts, numeracy and literacy, creating and building confidence, as well as opportunities to be part of the wider UWTSD community network through local and national events such as the Swansea Christmas Parade and Refugee week.

In her role as Widening Access Officer, Elisha has developed these workshops and says: “Building relationships within the community is fundamental to connecting with people from all backgrounds and cultures. Workshops provide a platform for individuals of all ages to become inspired and be supported to learn more about what they want to achieve in life. We can help them take that first step – something that can’t always be achieved in a more formal delivery setting.

“Joining the Widening Access team has given me so many opportunities, and it has been a real privilege to give back, not only to my own community but to others as well. It’s about bridging those gaps and connecting, having representation and driving the future to be better, despite the barriers. I feel passionate about the work that Widening Access does and I'm excited to be involved in the journey of changing the narrative and opening up new and exciting opportunities.”

Sam Bowen, Widening Access Manager at UWTSD says, “Our community engagement is having a real impact. Some of the parents and volunteers in Blaen y Maes have gone on to access courses at UWTSD, and our work with the local primary school has meant that many of the young session attendees have also visited campus and taken part in Drama workshops. It’s a pleasure to support families, and we celebrated the programme’s success with a community trip to Legoland over summer.”

Attendees of the programme have noted in evaluation how “the children feel a sense of achievement and pride when they can walk away with something they’ve created in the workshops”. Another reflected, “people don’t all grow up with money, and it can impact people’s future. It’s nice to see the university investing in the area as it makes people feel more valued, giving them opportunities to explore, changing future generations. It gets you connected.”

UWTSD Widening Access understands that working in community settings means making projects accessible and making people feel part of something bigger. The team hopes to drive current and future generations to become engaged, enhance skills they already have or to try something completely new outside of their comfort zone where they could possibly connect interests to future training or employability options.

The University encourages individuals and organisations to get in touch if they have something to offer to the project by emailing Elisha.hughes@uwtsd.ac.uk.

Child in the garden at Blaen y Maes community drop in centre

Further Information

Ella Staden

Swyddog y Wasg a'r Cyfryngau

Press and Media Officer

Cyfathrebu Corfforaethol a Chysylltiadau Cyhoeddus

Corporate Communications and PR

E-bost | Email : ella.staden@uwtsd.ac.uk

Ffôn | Phone : 07384467078