As well as looking after the learners in her Welsh class due to the Coronavirus pandemic by holding online classes, one of the tutors with Learn Welsh Swansea Bay Region, Academi Hywel Teifi, has also been looking after vulnerable members of her community.
Janet Horbury, who lives in Allt-wen, Swansea Valley, is one of the most committed volunteers with the Allt-wen Community Volunteer Group and since the crisis began, she has been helping neighbours who are unable to leave the house to complete daily tasks due to illness or being elderly. The volunteer group undertake a variety of tasks from grocery shopping, delivering forms to the medical centre, collecting prescriptions from the chemist and dog walking.
Leaflets were distributed to residents before the lockdown was announced outlining the help available to them, and there has been a great demand for support from the group. Sioned Williams is the Volunteer Group’s Co-ordinator who works for Academi Hywel Teifi, Swansea University and is also a local community councillor.
Janet has been a Welsh tutor in the area for the past 4 years teaching Entry and Foundation level courses held in Tŷ’r Gwrhyd Welsh Centre, Pontardawe. Before then, she’d been teaching Welsh classes in Neath Port Talbot College for fifteen years alongside her work teaching basic skills to students.
Over the past few weeks, Janet, like the other tutors with Learn Welsh Swansea Bay Region, has seen a significant change in her work pattern and approach. All teaching is now taking place using the Zoom platform and the tutors are working very hard to keep in touch with their learners through phone calls, What’s App groups, text messages and emails. It has been a period of learning new teaching skills for the tutors and offering pastoral care to the learners – with many over 60 years of age – by embracing technology in order to continue with lessons. But thanks to the tutors’ perseverance and entrepreneurship, it seems the learners are very much enjoying their virtual lessons and are grateful for the weekly contact with their fellow learners.
Whilst supporting her learners in this way, Janet has obviously also extended her ability to care for others by volunteering in Allt-wen. She says: “It is a pleasure to be able to help neighbours who are very vulnerable due to the crisis and without family living close by to help them with important tasks such as food shopping or collecting prescriptions. As a tutor I am used to offering support to my learners and the desire to help comes naturally.”
Sioned Williams, Allt-wen Volunteer Group Co-odinator said: “Janet is always amongst the first to reply to offer support when I receive a request for help. Many of the local residents have contacted me to express how grateful they are for her kindness and generosity – and it is lovely to feel that the both of us, as members of staff with Academi Hywel Teifi who engage with the community in our everyday work, continue to do so but in a different way during this challenging time.”
Dr Gwenno Ffrancon, Director of Academi Hywel Teifi, Swansea University said:
“The Academi is extremely proud of the way in which our staff is trying to support vulnerable members of the community during this crisis. So many of our staff support various schemes within their communities and I feel it is a true reflection of the Academi’s community ethos and our desire to reach out beyond the University campus in order to make a difference to the lives of residents in our area.”