Jane is currently starting the third year of her Advocacy & Social Justice degree with University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) on the Carmarthen Campus. Jane pinpoints the most significant shift in her journey to undertaking some volunteer training in 2014.
“I’d been caring for my husband since 2013 and lots of things had happened at once. My mum passed away, my Gran had gone into a home and my youngest was starting school. I was feeling very lost and I was anticipating going out and finding myself.”
In 2014 Spice Time Credits (now Tempo), a Third Sector Organization promoting a community currency as a tool for developing community and coproduction, commissioned Rivki Rose Training to design and deliver community champion training, building on engagement work that was taking place in Carmarthenshire.
Becca Rosenthal, founder of Rivki Rose Training said “The Training was very much about #changeyourstory, even back then. It was put together in a way that hoped to support people to ‘change the narrative’, both of their communities and themselves. We took an asset-based approach that helped people to see and value their own skills as well as the resources in their community. Jane was part of a group of local residents that seemed to be really hungry to know more, to understand more about how community development works and how they can have a meaningful impact in their own local area.”
Many of the participants of that training went on to gain Community Development qualifications, including Jane. During the Carmarthenshire Adult Learners Awards 2015, Jane and her fellow group of learners were given the ‘Community Development Learner Award’ for their outstanding commitment and dedication to learning. Jane was also given the ‘Breaking The Mould’ award. Pictured are Jane and Derek, they both attended that initial training and went on to successfully complete a Community Development Qualification funded by Communities First (now Carmarthenshire Communities For Work Plus) and delivered through Carmarthenshire Adult Community Learning.
“I remember feeling lost. The idea of Coproduction really took my attention, but at the same time I wasn’t sure what I could bring to it myself. I remember saying to someone ‘All I have is experience of Childcare and depression!’ But I also had a massive sense of needing to belong to something.”
Through different volunteering experiences, Jane developed a hunger for learning and personal and professional development. She developed and ran a successful Lottery funded community group and supported others to get involved in their community.
Jane undertook a number of short courses, including Child Psychology and Criminal Psychology pre-degree courses being offered through Llanelli Women’s Aid (now called ‘Threshold DAS’), as well as engaging with free learning including several modules through Open Learn.
“I really appreciated all of the opportunities that came my way, and also the chance to dip my toes into the water in a number of different areas. I learned so much from being able to dip into others’ areas of specialty and see the skills sets that people bring to different roles. I had a real opportunity to do things and try things I would never have had the chance to try otherwise.
“I think it’s given a really good example to our children too, that they don’t have to commit to one thing, that they can try lots of different things, especially through volunteering. They came with me to lots of community activities and not only saw, but also experienced what it meant to work as a team, and why community is important.”
All of Jane’s three children are exploring their own interests and passions. Sam, age 14, sits on the Youth Advisory Panel for the Children’s Commissioner for Wales. He’s contributed to materials being delivered in schools across Wales and has met Mark Drakeford.
“I think the children have learned some really important things ahead of their time. If we hadn’t volunteered as a family they wouldn’t have learned about the different things you can do, and that if you want to be involved in something you can volunteer and get some early experience in it. It’s taught them not to be afraid of challenges, how they can develop their skills and it’s helped them to have the skills to work through difficult decisions.”
Jane is keen to challenge stereotypes perpetuated by the media around community and family deprivation. “I’m still providing a significant level of care for my husband, and I’m grateful of all the support we receive in the UK to help me to be able to do that. But stereotypes paint the picture of ‘depravation’ being dark and bleak, particularly with families in receipt of certain benefits, free school meals and Carers etc. There’s no arguing that there are challenges in this country around poverty that are yet to be addressed properly, but with the right opportunities like we’ve experienced, our family is rich in community connection, opportunities and aspirations.”