Gillian’s ‘enjoying life again’

Gillian Cooper has had a new lease of life thanks to the support of a BIG funded project
Gillian Cooper has had a new lease of life thanks to the support of a National Lottery funded project

Wales has an ageing population and sadly, many older people with social care needs miss out on community life altogether. However, over 1,000 isolated and vulnerable older people in West Wales are having a new lease of life and getting the support they desperately deserve thanks to a one million pound (£918,784) project funded by the National Lottery Community FUnd.

Gillian Cooper, 52, of Llangennech in Carmarthenshire has seen her social life rocket since joining the West Wales Befriending Links project ran jointly by Age Cymru Sir Gar, Age Cymru Ceredigion and Age Concern Pembrokeshire. Gillian has suffered with many health problems over the past couple of years, caused by her arthritis and asthma which prevented her working and knocked her confidence and social life . . . .

I wasn’t going out much at all and I felt quite down at times. My health issues mean I haven’t worked for a long time and I wasn’t actively meeting people.  I felt my confidence was low and then I wasn’t that open to meeting people anyway.

I started card making as a hobby 8 years ago and when my friend saw that a friendship craft group in our area had started up she invited me to go with her. It was nice to go with someone else the first time and we are both still attending a year on. She saw the advert in our local paper and when we turned up it was actually the first meeting, so I guess we are founder members. I’ve seen the group grow and grow. I took along my craft and card making and it gives me time in the week to do that and I’ve even started teaching some of the other women how to make cards too and help them out when they need it.

We’re all happy people down there and I definitely recommend it to others. The card making I do keeps me moving and helps with the arthritis. The arthritis isn’t better but at least I’m active. I’m enjoying life again. I never thought I’d say this but I’m always looking forward to a Monday morning.

The project has helped over 1,000 people in West Wales
The project has helped over 1,000 older people like Gillian in West Wales

As a group we are now up to 40 members, in fact I think we are going to run out of room soon. People want to join because the group is so friendly; even if you come without a friend you soon have found one, or a roomful of friends. I’ve seen friendship develop, and every one helps each other.

We wanted to use our crafts for good. We’ve been knitting for premature babies at our hospital, making chicks to raise money for a children’s hospice, and even knitting jumpers for babies in Africa and blankets for Romania. I make cards that go to charity and we’ve given the Salvation Army food parcels. There’s always someone we can support and it’s a good reminder that we can still give something back.

For further information or if you know of anyone who could benefit from the project please visit the West Wales Befriending Links project here

Check out their video to see the impact the project has had on the lives of other older people in West Wales  

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