From education to employment

Community project targeting support of students and vulnerable in community

A ‘CHILL-OUT ZONE’ for students is among the new services a community hub in South Wales will provide in the new year.

Passionate Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) resident Dawn Parkin set up The Lighthouse Project two years ago, initially as a service supporting bereaved families in the area.

Operating from home to begin with, Dawn seized an opportunity to take over the Tonyrefail Community Centre in January 2020 – which in her own words needed some “TLC”.

In less than two years, the Project has joined forces with leading education, charitable, housing and health and wellbeing organisations across the Cwm Taf Morgannwg region.

Wellbeing coordinators within RCT (operating from within GP surgeries) already refer a lot of people who are lonely, isolated or in need of mental health or economic support to Dawn’s services, helping to lessen the strain on their practices. 

As Welsh Government and Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board (CTMUHB) reiterate the Help Us, Help You message this Winter – encouraging its communities to think about alternative healthcare options to best suit their needs – Dawn is keen for the centre to further strengthen its links with GP surgeries and health workers.

 “We are just pleased to play a small part in doing whatever we can to make life easier and safer for our CTM doctors and nurses who are under so much strain, especially at this time of year”, said Dawn, who left the Armed Forces as a Major having spent 35 years in Logistics and Welfare, travelling the world over. 

“This is an area which has long struggled with economic issues and a lack of opportunity. The Lighthouse Project is trying to address that; it’s about giving people who didn’t feel they had a reason to get out of bed in the morning a place to go, a welcoming refuge from their troubles.”

“Whether that’s mental health problems, unemployment or poverty, whatever it is, we are here for them.”

With people starting to think about unwinding for Christmas, Dawn has no plans to slow down and has even bigger and brighter plans for the centre for early 2022.

 “We already have an over 50s club tackling isolation and loneliness; a senior citizens social group; parent and toddler activities, and in January we are launching a wellbeing drop-in centre, a breastfeeding clinic and advice service, a ‘chill out zone’ for secondary school pupils and men’s mental health sessions – we have literally not stopped,” she said.

“And next year, our project aims to forge even closer relations with partners such as Interlink RCT and our wider community partners across CTM.”

Dawn added: “I love The Lighthouse Project; it keeps me alive, it’s what I’m made for.

“What makes me most proud is that people come here at their lowest ebb, we help them and so many of them become volunteers and then help other people, it’s amazing.”

To donate to The Lighthouse Project and for more information you can contact Dawn via the Facebook page:

Please use the hashtags #HelpuNiHelpuChi and #HelpUsHelpYou to support the Help Us, Help You campaign.

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