Borth Community Hub near Aberystwyth is a community facility that provides a range of support and activities for people in the north of Ceredigion. It was formerly known as Borth Family Centre when it started in 2008, and they remain a trusted service provider today. Back then they offered services just one day a week, but it has since grown and is now open 5 days a week offering a wide of services and activities for families in need and, increasingly, the wider community. These include a Dementia friendly group (Get Together), a Men’s Shed, a youth club, parenting and family support courses, baby massage courses, ‘Bumps and Baby and Toddler Time’ drop in sessions as well as a weekly healthy lunch club, bespoke language and play activities including a weekly outdoor session. Their varied activities continue through the school holidays, and the Hub has a wildlife and sensory garden as well as an outdoor play area. In an average week they can see and engage with around 40 families.
The hub’s vision is to help local residents to develop skills and confidence in all aspects of life, including playing their part in responding to the challenge of climate change. Sharing practical skills that will help people live more sustainably is important. Within the centre itself they also want to develop a culture of heightened awareness around sustainability and supporting people to make changes such as reducing food waste, recycling, using less plastic (swapping soap dispensers for bars of soap), upcycling and so on.
The group approached Renew Wales in May 2019 and local co-ordinator Jane Powell held a successful session with them exploring issues around climate change. The group were keen to act and decided to expand the range of activities include offers such as repair cafes, bike repairs and clothes upcycling events. They held their first bike repair event in November 2019, following some mentoring by John Cantor. This trial event was run alongside a cooking session which led to an interesting mix of people attending!
The arrival of the Coronavirus has meant no further ‘repair’ events have been possible, but the hub has adapted its plans, e.g. safely distributing pre-loved ‘book bundles’ to families and older members of the community. Families have also received warm clothes bundles – once again good quality second-hand clothes. Elderly residents also received planters, making use of the many surplus-to-requirement plants available from keen gardeners in the area. They have also received art packs and bird feeder packs. Every Thursday since March the hub has distributed food from local third sector group Aber Food Surplus to families and elderly residents. Additionally, many of the usual services have moved online including family support, ideas for activities for children, healthy, easy and affordable family meal ideas, food bank referrals, on-line chat groups, on-line baby massage and signposting to other services.
Last year the hub also participated in the National Lottery’s Climate Top-Ups Pilot, which enabled them to look at improving the energy efficiency of their building. They received support from Sustainable Communities Wales who carried out a comprehensive analysis of energy use in building. The site has an annual energy spend of £2,335, which is not insignificant! One of the more straightforward recommendations was to monitor their energy consumption more closely so they can see how it changes over time and then consider setting an achievable target for reducing their energy use. Several other ‘quick -wins’ and no- or low- cost measures were put forward – e.g. optimising heating timer settings, enabling power save functions on IT equipment and running an awareness campaign on lighting to reduce number of lights being left on in unoccupied rooms – alongside longer term options such as the installation of renewable energy systems on site. options. In the short term the group been able to get the old aluminium single glazed windows (some could not be closed properly) replaced with double glazed windows, and new doors have been fitted throughout the large hall. They are hoping next to explore options for improving the distribution of radiators once the building re-opens and when funds allow. This will ensure the hall area is heated more efficiently.
During the pandemic the hub’s Family Support Worker, Rachel Grasby, has taken part in online opportunities for sharing and learning, offered by Renew Wales. Firstly, she attended an Introduction to Mentoring session which was aimed at encouraging more people from community groups to skill themselves up to offer mentoring to others. She also took part in a virtual get together of community groups who had or are working on projects involving bikes, part of a broader initiative to enable groups from across the country to meet up informally and share ideas and good practice with each other through virtual platforms.
Rachel says; “It’s been really useful during lockdown to have been able to participate in some sessions put on by Renew Wales. I have learnt a lot and found it valuable to link up with other projects right across Wales (that I wouldn’t normally have done so) where we shared knowledge, experiences and sparked different ideas amongst each other.”