Members of Rhydyfelin Youth Club came up with the idea for a digital bench while they were learning woodworking skills with the help of Eggseeds, a sustainable education organisation. They identified the problem of charging a phone when out and about and wondered if they could do anything about this problem? Could they come up with an innovative design that would actually work?
Through Renew Wales a mentor from Eggseeds, Sam Holt, worked with the group to help them develop the confidence and skills to see it through. Initial support came from Newydd Housing Association and the project had some funding from Interlink RCT. Several other partners also came forward with help, support, expertise and materials including local private companies. Sam helped them plan and focus on what they wanted to achieve and they soon realised that a bench could perform other functions too, such as being a seat/shelter for homeless people. With this in mind they came up with the idea of suggesting to Rev Peter Lewis of St. Catherine’s Church, Pontypridd that the bench could be installed on church grounds – and he agreed!
The group and lots of other local people were really excited by the idea that the digital bench could also help tackle such a significant social issue in their area. In between the stages the youngsters kept in touch and sustained their enthusiasm by setting up a Facebook group, sharing news, videos, and articles they had seen.
The project got underway through RCT Youth Engagement and Participation Service (YEPS) support and with help from Renew Wales and Newydd Housing staff. During the project, two members of the youth club gained qualifications, allowing them to work on construction sites in future. The practical sessions taught them how to use tools with confidence. They also enjoyed feeling that they were part of something tangible which would contribute to their community.
Josh Baker from Rhydyfelin Youth Club said, “From the moment we came up with the idea there was a buzz around the youth club which got me and the other boys excited. I became more confident in using tools and more interested in a job in construction as time went on. Staff working on the project must have noticed as they referred me onto Newydd’s CSCS course which I managed to pass. It was hard work, there was a lot to consider, however stepping back at St Catherine’s Church and seeing what we managed to achieve will be something that will stick with me forever.”
On Friday March 22nd March the group built the bench and installed it in the church grounds. Lots of people showed up to support them and the youngsters really benefitted from helping with this final stage. The completed wooden bench has a solar panelled roof that stores power and lets the public charge devices through one of two USB ports. There is a wooden trellis on either end of the bench which will be used to grow fruit bearing vines such as strawberries or tomatoes, while the wooden planters will be used to grow root vegetables. The guttering acts as an irrigation system, diverting water away from the bench and to the planters.
Scott Tandy, Community Regeneration Officer at Newydd Housing said, “I am so proud of the team at Rhydyfelin Youth Group for their hard work and enthusiasm in seeing this project through. Not only have they worked together as a team, gained fantastic skills for the future but they have also thought of the needs of the local community.”