A disabled former HGV driver has joined a new generation of community volunteers thanks to an innovative scheme launched by a housing association.
Stephen Davis, 51, from Old Colwyn, who’s confined to a wheelchair, does good deeds for his neighbours and in return they also help him.
The Give Where You Live scheme set up by Cartrefi Conwy is the only one of its kind in North Wales and has proved a big hit with tenants.
It won a silver medal at the Tenant Participation Advisory Service Cymru Awards in Cardiff.
The scheme has 90 active members across the county.
Among them is Stephen, a tenant on The Fron estate, who was left unable to walk after being struck down by a muscle wasting disease.
He explained: “I’m good with my hands and can do lots of things like repair everything from watches to motorised wheelchairs, things like that. My wife and I also take neighbours shopping when we go.
“I can then use the hours I bank to get someone to help me, things like tidying the garden or cutting the grass, tasks I can no longer do. It’s a great scheme and I can’t fault it.”
The time banking project is managed by Nerys Veldhuizen, Cartrefi Conwy’s older person engagement co-ordinator and coordinated by Sara Lainingham and Kelly Williams.
According to Nerys, every one of the growing number of the members lists their individual skills or what they are willing to add to the time bank.
She said: “It can be something really small like a welfare call or driving someone to a medical appointment.
“The task earns you points you can spend by getting someone to do a task for you that you might struggle with, perhaps cutting your grass or putting a shelf up.
“A tenant or resident who is a member of the scheme need only call one of the two co-ordinators who will then check the scheme to find a member with the relevant skills. They will then organise for the job to be done.”
Another tenant who’s signed up is Menna Thomas, 89, from Chester Avenue, in Kinmel Bay.
She said: “It’s a great idea. I do what I can to help other tenants doing odd jobs like getting someone who can’t get out a bit of shopping.
“That earns me points and I can get someone to cut my grass. I have good neighbours anyway but I can use the hours I bank to get things done that I or my neighbours can’t do. It’s a cracking scheme.”
Janette Smith, 71, who lives at Cartrefi Conwy’s Cysgod y Gogarth Independent Living in Llandudno, helps run a lunch club for fellow tenants.
“You don’t have to do a great deal but it’s about helping and looking after each other. And you make friends with people you might not normally talk to.”
Fellow Cysgod y Gogarth tenant, Olwyn Rowlands, 82, also speaks highly of the scheme.
She said: “I run two coffee mornings for other tenants on a Monday and Thursday. I also shop for my disabled neighbour and do a fair bit of ironing for different people which I actually quite enjoy. But that still earns me hours that I can use.
It’s a good system and means it helps me to think about what my neighbours’ need. It means we are looking after each other.”
Nerys added: “It’s proving a big hit with tenants and residents and is funded through an Intermediate Care Grant through Social Services and a further grant from The Rhyl Flats Wind Farm.
“The scheme also brings people who might not normally interact with each other together and that helps make friends and builds a sense of community.
“We are really proud that the project was honoured at the Tenant Participation Advisory Service Cymru Awards.”
Bill Hunt, a Cartrefi Conwy board member and chair of the operations committee, is a big fan of the scheme.
He said: “It’s helping to bring people together and be more aware of what they can do to help each other. I believe it’s a wonderful idea and I think the scheme can only grow as more people get involved.
“It’s about tenants looking after each other and using their life skills to benefit themselves and their fellow tenants. I’m delighted at the success of the project especially as it has been embraced by several Cartrefi Conwy communities.”
“There is no doubt the scheme complements other Cartrefi Conwy projects such as the very successful annual Big Day Out and Older Person’s Day.”
Sarah, one of the project coordinators said: “It’s a brilliant idea and works so well. It’s making a real difference and helps make people more independent. It’s also got tenants together looking after each other.
“Some tenants who were perhaps somewhat isolated got involved and are now helping to look after neighbours and are running small community events. It’s fabulous.”
Kelly added: “It means tenants are talking to each other and the number of new friendships that have started up as a result is amazing. One hour of one tenant’s time is equal to an hour of another tenant’s time. Of course they get a credit even if it’s less than an hour.
“Members who require a job done contact Sarah or me and we go through the list to find someone with the skills to help. We then put them in touch with each other and keep a record of the hours each scheme member has built.”