The impact of Coronavirus is seeping into every nook and cranny of Welsh society, leaving the most vulnerable isolated and alone.
Those over 70 and those with underlying conditions are advised not to leave their homes, even for groceries and essential supplies. Yet online delivery slots from supermarkets are booked up completely for the next few weeks.
While the situation seems bleak, community heroes from across Wales are putting smiles on faces and food on tables. And in the small town of Treharris near Merthyr Tydfil, the local rugby club is proving to be a lifeline.
photo credit: Jason Jones - Photo Video Aerial Ltd.
“We don’t see ourselves as just a club. We are the beating heart of the community.” That’s Huw Evans, a committee member at Treharris Phoenix RFC and his words have never been more relevant than in recent weeks.
Despite limited facilities, Pip and Stacey Gwynne - a mother and daughter cooking duo - are turning out hundreds of meals at cost price for residents and keyworkers every week. An army of rugby club volunteers are arriving at the kitchen’s outdoor serving hatch to collect and deliver meals to doorsteps.
Last weekend, 100 Sunday lunches were delivered to the homes of those in need while frontline keyworkers such as NHS staff, and those keeping the cogs of daily life turning, collect takeaways.
Huw explains, “Logistically, we really are at the very centre of our community. The club was built on the old deep navigation colliery. Naturally, workers’ homes were built around it. Our very presence on that site means we are central to everything.”
But – despite what Kirsty and Phil might think – location isn’t everything. It is heart:
“Within our club, we know who the people are who might be struggling. And this mobilisation of volunteers hasn’t happened overnight.”
Huw explains that a real galvanising factor in the club’s efforts to build a volunteer scheme was the disappearance of local rugby player Brooke Morris. In October 2019, police found the 22-year-old’s body in the river near Abercynon:
“We had about three or four hundred people searching for Brooke every day. As a community, we were devastated that it ended tragically. After that, we set up a volunteer scheme called Friends of the Phoenix. We knew that we could play a really valuable role in the community.”
The efforts put in by Treharris Phoenix RFC has been recognised by local councillor Gareth Richards:
“Well done Treharris Phoenix RFC, I wouldn’t expect anything less from this club, it’s a big beating heart in the centre of our community.”
Meanwhile, Dawn Bowden Assembly Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney said:
“The club is a fantastic example of the response local people are making in response to this virus. I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in these efforts as you are all helping to keep people safe in our communities.”
The club was promoted to division two last season and was pushing for division one before all games came to a Covid-19 induced standstill. But its community ambitions are as important as those on the pitch:
“We don’t have the biggest or the best facility, but we have the potential to be a community hub that works with older people’s charities and with young people. There is so much more we want to do. This is just the start.”
Club Solutions was created to help sports clubs and volunteers in Wales. So, if you have any further questions or you would like to share how your club has been helping out your community, please get in touch with our friendly team, or let’s chat on social!