First Minister Mark Drakeford visited St Thomas’s Church in Caerphilly today to thank Reverend Dean Aaron Roberts and his army of volunteers, who have supported those in need in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The CARE Project (Church Assistance Request in an Emergency) was set up on 23 March to deliver food parcels, shopping and prescriptions, as well as offering emotional support to anyone in the CF83 postcode needing some extra help.
Since then, over 100 volunteers - from teenagers to pensioners - have taken thousands of phone calls and delivered thousands of food parcels, helping hundreds of people.
The visit coincides with the launch of a new Welsh Government fund to help volunteer organisations provide vital assistance in the recovery from COVID-19. The Voluntary Services Recovery Fund will be open for applications from Monday (August 17) and will focus on reducing the inequalities in society which have been highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic.
The new fund will replace the Voluntary Services Emergency Fund, which has already awarded almost £7.1 million to 156 voluntary organisations who have been working on the front line to support Wales' most vulnerable communities. The CARE project was one such project who benefitted from a £43,000 grant to install vital telephone lines, IT services and the salaries of an administrator and operations manager.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
Though the coronavirus pandemic has been a difficult time for us all, our volunteers in Wales have shown themselves to be a light in the dark.
Coming here today and meeting Reverend Dean and the team of volunteers has been a privilege. The CARE project is an impressive endeavour made up of selfless people who responded promptly and with warm hearts, despite trying circumstances.
“I want to thank everyone at CARE and all of the volunteers across Wales for the invaluable work and support you have provided in the emergency response to coronavirus. If you are a volunteer organisation who wants to continue to mobilise help, please apply for our Voluntary Services Recovery Fund through the WCVA.
The Reverend Dean Aaron Roberts said:
We are delighted that the First Minister has visited us at the BMMR Parish Trust CARE Project.
This visit has been a huge morale boost for our entire 100 volunteer strong workforce, who are of all ages, and have been providing practical assistance to an area covering around 15,000 people since March. This has been a great encouragement that the difference our volunteers are making is being recognised and supported by the Government both locally and nationally. We have received incredible support from the local area with donations of money and food, but also of time and energy to ensure people are looked after. We have also been greatly encouraged by a grant from the Welsh Government and other charitable organisations who saw our work as being vital towards mitigating both the direct and indirect consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
Our charity will now prioritise looking at building resilience in our communities and continuing to offer practical assistance as we adjust our lives to the new normality we are about to discover as the nation seeks to recover from lockdown.
Deputy Minister and Chief Whip Jane Hutt said:
We’ve been working closely with the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, helping charities and third sector organisations to expand and adapt services to meet the specific needs of this challenging time.
Charities, voluntary sector organisations and volunteers have played a vital role in the response to COVID-19, and our support for the voluntary sector won’t end here.