Garnsychan Partnership Blog

An excellent blog from Garnsychan Partnership Manager Kate Burton.

The COVID-19 crisis has created the perfect storm for many charities like the Garnsychan Partnership.

The good news is despite the temporary closure of the Circulate Recycling Shops, we are helping more vulnerable people in our community than we have ever done before. Our food parcel support, prescription delivery service in partnership with Abersychan Pharmacy and the friendly phone call service have seen people are affected by this terrible pandemic needing us more now than ever. 
The bad news is that the money we use to deliver these services and with the shop closures has dried up almost overnight. 

The COVID-19 emergency has created a massive challenge for the Garnsychan Partnership to ensure that we are able to continue to support people in our ward. In the 6 years of me working at the Charity, I have never known a year like it. In all of the highs and lows during these years, it has never been this tough. The NHS and health care provisions and all the other essential workers (who I have the pleasure of working with many on a daily basis) are doing an amazing job with the coronavirus crisis. My weekly Thursday routine of an 8pm Clap, just doesn’t seem enough!

The Garnsychan Partnership is playing a very small part in the battle of Coronavirus. It’s humbling to know that some of the our support services are seeing a real impact on those elderly (especially) who are shielding or self isolating and the feedback and letters of thanks makes all of the hard work worthwhile. Many of our team have had to be furloughed and others redeployed which means we are a skeleton workforce currently working at a high demand. I want to give thanks to Torfaen County Borough Council who have been instrumental in supporting us through food donations and Ceri and Trina from the Communities for Work team who carry out shopping for us twice weekly to keep the food parcels well stocked. 
But mostly to our wonderful duo at Garnsychan Partnership, Gary and Paul; they have been instrumental in coordinating and delivering these essential services, to taking the calls, collating data, delivery food and prescriptions (often on foot). They are TRULY AMAZING!!! 
And finally, the board of Trustees; they have been amazing support, guiding me and the charity through these very uncertain times. The board bring a wealth of knowledge and experience and I have certainly had to tap into those resources more now than ever. The board members are all volunteers and work tirelessly to help me lead the organisation. So, thank you! 

Every day, we are hearing from some of the 3000 people we have supported during Covid-19 who are frightened, scared and unsure how to interpret the advice from the Government and uncertain how much the information on social media can be trusted. Residents who have had treatment delayed, are struggling to find out about their treatment options, people are struggling with isolation and anxiety while shielding at home all need trusted information and advice. 

So people are turning to us. We have never experienced anything like this before. This is not going to go anywhere, anytime soon, and neither are we. 

We have seen a substantial increase in numbers of people contacting us for advice and support over these last 12 weeks, so much so the data we have collated really shows the need and importance of our work here at Garnsychan Partnership and I am proud that our Charity is here to carry out these vital services. 

But while one tap has been turned on to full, the other has been turned off. With Circulate Recycling closed we (apart from a local authority grant) receive no other external funding or income.  Lockdown stopped our most successful trading months of the year almost overnight. 

There is approx £750 million of government support. There are a huge number of charities competing for the same pot so the reality is it’s unlikely to make enough of a difference to every charity that needs help right now. That said, down to some hard slog, I have been successful in awarding the charity some short term funding to help cashflow from a variety of organisations. Thank you to TVA, Moondance Foundation, The National Lottery and Community Foundation Wales your funds are allowing us to continue providing essential services during very unprecedented times. However, this wont last long, so the funding application writing does not stop there. It is ever important that we find new ways of working to re-open our Furniture Recycling project for the longer term sustainability of Garnsychan Partnership but also to continue to support our service users who need access to affordable household items. 

The unprecedented number of people turning to the Garnsychan Partnership means we can’t dial down our support anytime soon. And when the world returns to normal our residents will still need us if not more.  So while we are in a serious situation, we are planning to tough this out so we will still be here for our residents, now, next year and beyond. 

Once again, thank you to all our partners, staff and volunteers. You are all hero’s! ‘

6th Annual Abersychan Ward Scarecrow Competition 2020

Abersychan Ward Community Councillors, Kay Arthur, Nick Byrne, Lynda Clarkson and Giles Davies are thrilled to throw their support behind the 6th Annual Scarecrow competition, taking place within the ward again this year.

One of the previous entries

Former Councillor and founder of the ward event Mrs Gwyneira Clark MBE, stated ‘that she is overjoyed that the Community Councillors are supporting the event this year and that the Millennium Hall Committee will be making this event a choose your own theme, but there will be a special prize, for a children’s entry to recognise a Key Worker that have supported us during these difficult times’.

Lock down rules will be adhered to and Scarecrows must be outside and on view.

Photographs along with location and adult or child category can be emailed to

There will be no entry fees, and further details will be announced shortly.

Winners will be announced on Saturday July 25th.

So start crafting and let’s see some Scarecrows in the Ward soon!

Shielding people can meet others and exercise outdoors

New advice for those who are shielding has been issued today and comes into force tomorrow June 1.

“Shielding people can meet others and exercise outdoors

Changes to advice for people shielding from coronavirus are being introduced from Monday 1 June, Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething has announced today.

People who have been shielding can now take exercise outdoors and meet people from another household, as long as it takes place outdoors.

There are two changes to the advice for this group:

Outdoor exercise is unlimited, as long as individuals strictly follow social distancing rules and hygiene practices.

Those who are shielding can meet outside with people from another household – but should not go into another person’s house or share food with them.

There are no other changes being made to the advice for those who are shielding at this stage. People who are shielding should continue to follow all the other advice previously given.

They should not go shopping or attend work outside of home. They should continue to have food and medicine delivered to them.

This advice comes from Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, who said:

Risk can never be completely eliminated but we advise those shielding to exercise at times that are less busy, so the risk of contact with others is reduced.

“We have advised everyone in Wales to maintain social distance of 2 meters and keep good hygiene when meeting outdoors. For those who are shielding, strictly following these rules is vital.”

Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething said:

I am pleased that so many have been shielding so diligently – not only protecting themselves but also helping to protect our NHS. We recognise how challenging these last few months, with minimal face-to-face contact with others, has been.

“I am incredibly proud of all those who have and continue to provide the vital support to enable people to shield. Our Local Authority partners, pharmacies, volunteers and major food retailers have all pulled together to make shielding possible.”

The Chief Medical Officer is continuing to develop his advice for shielding people after 15 June.

All who are shielding will receive a letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales in the coming fortnight setting out the next steps.”

The Head Gardener Winners Announced

Friday 29 May saw the penultimate of The Head Gardener Hairdressing Salon ‘Support Your Heroes’ craft competition as Councillor Giles Davies judged the entries on display at Garndiffaith.

There were 3 voucher prizes up for grabs.

1st Prize of £25 for under 16 years old

2nd Prize of £15 for Under 16 years old

And one £10 prize for over 16 years old

Councillor Giles Davies stated, ‘that he was very impressed by the quality of the artwork displayed and thrilled that Ms House – Davies had decided to run this competition, it was very difficult to choose a winner as the talent shown was unbelievably good’.

After much deliberation, the winners were chosen.

Zoe Powell won the adult category with her outstanding rainbow heart made with buttons and framed.

Adult Winning Entry

Mandie Jenkins, 13 won the Under 16 category with her cat in a mask.

Under 16, First Prize Winner

Calan & Kenzi Gould, 5 & 2 won Second Prize with their Rainbow Jelly Fish.

Second Prize, Under 16

Thank you to everyone who took part, the display can be seen at The Head Gardener, Stanley Road, Garndiffaith.

Stay local to keep Wales safe: changes to the lockdown announced

From Monday, 2 households in the same local area will be able to meet outdoors. In doing this, however, people must follow social distancing and strict hand hygiene practices to control the spread of the virus.

‘Local’ means not generally travelling more than 5 miles from home to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading from one area to another.

The changes mean people can meet another household outdoors in their local area but all the other rules to protect people from coronavirus will stay in place for the time being.

Meeting outdoors is key as the science tells us the virus survives only for minutes outside but for hours on indoor surfaces.

The changes follow the third statutory review of the regulations by Welsh Ministers. The review is based on the latest scientific evidence from SAGE and the advice of the Chief Medical Officer for Wales.

Wales has passed the first peak of infection and rates are falling but the R rate remains at 0.8. Both SAGE and the World Health Organisation has advised changes should only be made one step at a time.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

We recognise what people have given up to help Wales slow the spread of coronavirus. I want to thank everyone for everything they have done – by sticking to the rules, we are all helping to protect each other and help our NHS respond to the pandemic.

We know people are missing seeing their family and friends – the latest evidence, which underpins this review, means we can make some changes, to enable people to meet again, if it is done outdoors and locally, and people continue to follow the social distancing guidance.

We are learning more about this virus every day and we know the risk of transmission is lower outdoors than indoors. That’s why, if we all remain 2 metres apart, 2 households will be able to meet outdoors, including in private gardens.

However, a lower risk doesn’t mean no risk. Even in these circumstances it is vital we all maintain social distancing so we can continue to tackle the spread of this virus.

Now and in the days and months ahead we all have a personal responsibility to make sure our actions don’t contribute to the spread of coronavirus. Please help keep Wales safe by staying local.

The changes to the regulations will come into force on Monday and include:

  • Allowing members of 2 separate households in the same local area to meet outdoors at any one time as long as they maintain social distancing. There is a low risk of infection if the 2 metre physical distancing rule is maintained while outdoors. This does not need to be the same people from the same household every time. ‘Local’ means not travelling more than 5 miles from home
  • The 2 households can meet in private outdoor spaces, such as gardens, but this comes with a higher risk of infection as people may have to pass through someone’s private home to reach a garden. The Welsh Government will provide guidance about the precautions which can be taken to minimise these risks
  • Allowing weddings and civil partnerships to take place if the bride or groom is terminally ill.

The need to stay local and not mix with others other than in certain circumstances will be subject to exceptions similar to those that currently apply. Guidance will be provided about what staying local means in different circumstances.

Beauty and tourist spots will remain closed.

The First Minister will today signal that non-essential retail businesses, which can comply with the physical distancing duty, should start to prepare to reopen over the next 3 weeks. A decision about whether non-essential retail will reopen will be taken at the next review on 18 June and will depend on the scientific and medical evidence.

At the next review, the Welsh Government will examine options for:

  • Re-opening non-essential retail
  • Increasing capacity for childcare and public transport to support a wider return to work
  • Facilitating moving house to boost the housing market
  • Re-opening outdoors sites, including outdoor markets, sports courts, outdoor showrooms, and outdoor museums
  • Re-opening facilities for non-professional elite athletes to train safely.

The First Minister added:

I am signalling to businesses across Wales that they may begin preparations to be ready to resume activity in these areas should the evidence support reopening.

This will allow us to restart activity as soon as possible if the conditions allow. We will continue to work closely with the public sector, trade unions, businesses, the third sector and others to achieve this”

Spotlight on Syran John Hairdressing

When you hear the name Syran John you’ll instantly think of their iconic window displays, Syran John Hairdressing is so much more.

Syran John, based within Abersychan since 1998, expanding to their current premises on Broad Street in 2004.

One of the many window displays

Over the years the business has gained many accolades, which includes travelling the country and world as an educator for Unite Haircare UK, sharing many of their ideas to others within the industry.

The Abersychan business, which featured in many high profile magazines such as Vogue and Your Hair, is respected throughout the country for its creative passion, receiving awards from the British Hair and Beauty Awards to Good Salon Guide.

Not content with that, the business has just launched a high end website cataloging their services on offer, including Wedding Hair, Prom Hair, Hair Training and Education on a one to one or group training session.

During lockdown for Covid 19, one to push the boundaries Syran John has totally revamped the studio, bringing with it a fresh look ready for the grand reopening in the near future.

The new Website can be reached by visiting

A real asset to the Abersychan Ward.

National Volunteers Week

What better way to celebrate National Volunteers Week which starts next Monday, June 1st than to give a special mention to Ms Zowie Vaughan from Talywain.

Zowie Vaughan

Zowie, eager to help others within the ward as soon as the Covid 19 Pandemic was first discovered in Wales, started a support and informational group on Facebook, called ‘Talywaun Coronavirus Help Group’.

As the group took off, Zowie who was employed by a local retail business at the time was approached by local carer, Kay Smith who told her that she had problems getting supplies such as hand sanitiser gel.

Zowie then came up with the idea to raise funds to make up some packs to donate to NHS Staff, which were fully supported by her support group on Facebook.

Not only have the group donated Thank You packs, but also contributed to the supply of homemade scrub bags for the NHS.

Reading comments on the Facebook Group today, recipients of the Goody Bags are overjoyed by being nominated and to be receiving the packs.

Nominee NHS worker Patricia Mary Price posted ‘today I got sent a message from the lovely Zowie Vaughan informing me that I have been nominated for a goodie bag from the people of Talywain as a thank you for working through the pandemic. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart, it’s so lovely when you realise how much people DO appreciate what you do. Thank You’.

Well done Zowie for implementing this, you truly are one in a million, you’ve made a lot of Carers and NHS Staff feel really appreciated, during these difficult times and kept everyone updated with the latest information in the process.

A credit to the Ward.

Volunteering for the Ward

Another Sunday afternoon spent volunteering at Noddfa, assisting with their weekly food share deliveries to the ward.

Noddfa a welsh word meaning, refuge, a place of welcome and peace, is definitely living up to its name, with a growing number of volunteers.

You’re always guaranteed a warm welcome, whatever your belief or circumstances and always welcome to socially distance volunteer on any one of their projects, to help the community of Abersychan ward and further afield.

Apart from food share, Noddfa is also a collection point for recycling equipment, the hall is open every weekday between 10am and noon.

Today I was pleased to see British Gas (Paul, Andrew and Nathan) along with Patrol Officers join with the Church volunteers to help deliver over 70 food bags within the locality again this week.

Paul and Andrew from British Gas

Everything is done at a leisurely pace under the watchful eyes of Mandi and her husband, but done with clockwork precision, with each driver given an area to cover.

You might not know that Noddfa is build over a stream a belief that living water, will cleanse and help the congregation to regain energy, the amount of input this one Church has had within the ward, I am starting to believe this is true.

Thank you Pastor John Funnell and Noddfa Church along with all volunteers, for giving up the most precious thing you can ever give, not only through Covid 19, but always.


Posties do it again!

Like many others in the ward, I now look forward to a Friday to help brighten up my weekly lockdown by looking out for our amazing posties in fancy-dress.

This week, the ward was spoilt yet again by a full crew of Posties dressed as Snow White and a variety of other characters.

Snow White and Thing 1

Out walking the Ward, it was heartwarming to see families out waiting for their Postie to call.

This is a breath of fresh air during these difficult times, especially to see the children so excited!

I had the pleasure of visiting the Pontnewynydd (Pontypool) Depot earlier in the week, meeting staff involved and hearing how the idea came about during the Covid19 Lockdown, helping to bring cheer and raise funds, choosing a different charity each Friday.

This week around £1500 has been raised for Guide Dogs for the Blind, a massive round of applause to every one of our Posties, sometimes forgotten as essential Key Workers.

Well Fancy That!

You may have had to look twice last Friday when your Royal Mail was delivered by a Cowboy, Sailor, Smurf, along with a variety of other characters, as Pontypool Posties donned fancy dress to raise funds for Noddfa Church after a recent burglary, resulted in thousands of pounds worth of musical instruments being taken.

Each Friday for the foreseeable future, our posties based from Pontnewynydd Sorting Office will be dressing up to *raise funds for local charities.

Speaking to a member of staff I was told “We had to suggest several charities or good causes to support, Noddfa was suggested as it’s local to us and after having a break in, it was a no brainer, they do an awful lot for the community.

We had a show of hands and they won!”

Thank you Posties for bringing cheer into the area and raising funds for various causes, during these unprecedented times!

The residents of Abersychan Ward, can’t wait to see you next Friday!

*If you’d like to donate, then give directly to your postie. A fundraiser page will be set up shortly by them.