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Why a high street shop is giving away free school uniform

Their reasons may make you dig through those wardrobes and donate your old blazer

School uniforms can undoubtedly be expensive, especially when kids sprout up mid-term after you've forked out a fortune on clothes during the summer holidays.

But a Rhondda charity shop is trying to ease the burden for struggling parents, or those whose kids have had a surprising growth spurt.

The Friends of the Rhondda Rotary Community Shop in Treorchy take in donations of unwanted school uniform and give them away for free.

And earlier this week shop co-ordinator Jan Ellis wrote a passionate and heartfelt post on Facebook explaining why the shop gives the uniforms away for free, and encouraged more people to drop off their old uniforms.

She wrote: "So many families in work poverty, imagine your son growing six inches in a term, or needing new shoes, or your daughter gaining a bust and growing out of her blouse.. imagine your son's shirt ruined by the spoilt brat on the bus who covered it in nail varnish, bright pink.."

She went on to say: "Imagine the cost of replacements on top of other bills, replacements you can only get at selected shops. That's why we don't charge."

Jan, who has worked at the shop since it opened five years ago, told us the shop raises money for the Rhondda community and takes in unwanted items like bras and prescription glasses.

And since the social media post on Monday, July 23, the shop has had between 30 and 40 drop-offs of unwanted uniform.

Jan said: "People seem to have really picked up on the post and we've had quite a lot of donations.

"We've always given away free uniforms because imagine buying brand new uniform for September, then by the end of October your child has shot up six inches.

"There are cheap school clothes in Lidl and other supermarkets, but for secondary school they have to buy the uniform from a specific shop.

"Many people who are given money to spend towards uniform also have to get it from a specific shop which are often not the cheapest nor the best. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's very restrictive when you have an 11-year-old who is growing."

"I have had parents come in the shop whose kids have been told off by the school for not having the right shoes or coat," Jan said.

People on the Facebook page have since applauded the shop's stance.

Gillian Sealey wrote: "Such a good idea! I remember buying my son’s shoes in August and by the start of term they were too small! He finished school with size 11."

Cherrill Rees said: "Well done you. Fantastic idea, and what a help for parents struggling to get their children the right uniform. I hope heads of relevant schools see this."

The shop has all sorts of school uniform including PE kits, school dresses, and coats.

"Uniform is meant to make it a level playing field," said Jan. "But if you can't afford that how is that fair and we want to stop that."

You can lend your support to Friends of the Rhondda Rotary Community Shop via their Facebook page , or visit them at 208 High Street, Treorchy.


The Welshman helping to build a rugby legacy in some of the most deprived parts of Africa

Freddie Davies, 38, from Newbridge, started the charitable organisation Connect to Africa and has seen many young players he's coached go on to represent their countries

A rugby loving Welshman is helping to build a rugby legacy in some of the most deprived countries in Africa having coached some of the rising stars in the continent.

Freddie Davies, 38, has been volunteering in Africa for a number of years having first gone out there with a UK charity, but he decided to go it alone after becoming disillusioned with with what he was doing.

The fitness instructor decided to start his own charitable organisation called Connect to Africa, whose volunteers focus on helping African citizens become independent and and autonomous when it comes deciding their own futures.

After finding a common love of sport with many of the youngsters he came into contact with during his volunteering work, Newbridge -boy Freddie began holding rugby training sessions which grew from strength to strength.

Now he is seeing a lot of the boys and girls he coached go on to represent their countries at international level with a hotbed of talent growing in east Africa.

Freddie, who now lives in Treherbert , said: "I am an avid traveller and my passion is travelling. I applied for a UK-based charity and my thought was to go out there and do my bit of good and come back but I realised I could do a lot more out there on my own

"When I got to Malawi I made a conscious decision to help a few of my friends I had met out there. There was no masterplan.

"I’m a boy from the Valleys and I wanted to show people that they’re my friends and break down all of those boundaries. I remember playing down a park during the 1999 Rugby World Cup with a flat ball and it was the best thing ever, we’re doing the same thing over there."
Freddie Davies has handed out a number of second hand rugby shirts from clubs across Wales to those he coaches

Freddie, who has played for Penalta, Abercarn, Crumlin, Crosskeys College, and teams as far away as Vancouver and Sydney, has connections with the international setups in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The University of South Wales alumnus and Cardiff Metropolitan University student said: "I am director of Ethiopia rugby. We have launched an office which will become the Ethiopian Rugby Federation.

"In Kenya we have a lot of work in women’s participation in the sport and in Tanzania we’re about to create the only black rugby team. We need to be worried about them in 10 years time if they come to Wales.

"This year we're holding the Invitational East Africa Rugby Sevens Tournament in Rwanda, we require support in terms of rugby kits.

"In Uganda, I do a lot with the women’s national team, I coach them, they’re in the top 10 in Africa and there number one in terms of sevens.

"To see Uganda win the sevens in Africa, that was the pinnacle in seeing five boys I coached playing."

"We have also helped to set up a junior east Africa league for under 15s and under 18s."

Describing the popularity of rugby out in east Africa, Freddie said the sport was on the rise with many international teams on the up.

He said: "Uganda is a massive rugby country, and Rwanda have become an IRB nation.

"Most of the countries in Africa have a huge player base but the difficulty they have got is the pathway to progress to the next stage.

"Next year our goal is to raise the amount of clubs in Tanzania so they can become an IRB member.
Freddie Davies' charitable organisation Connect to Africa does a lot of work in the community as well as rugby coaching

"Ethiopia is also massive because they have got a population of 80 million people.

"The sevens game is more popular in Africa for many reasons. It’s difficult to find props in Uganda but in some countries like the Congo that won’t be an issue.

"Ethiopia would be the only country I would worry about in the way they run and play the game.

"When we’re working with kids, we tend to coach sevens because we can adapt it a little bit better and everyone can take part."

Despite rugby being a big part of what they do, volunteers with Connect to Africa also try to teach life skills to young people they come into contact with that will help them in everyday life.

He said: "We’re trying to create a space and opportunity for young people to learn and develop in an way they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

"My pleasure comes from seeing someone’s confidence grow in an unusual environment. We have got one project called Rugby Tackling Life.

"Rather than just teaching rugby, we teach them the safety aspect and these girls learn about life skills as well such as contraception, so it’s not just about rugby. It’s also a good way into other things like like self respect, discipline, team work and communication. The rugby is the tool to teach them with these things.
Freddie Davies has handed out a number of second hand rugby shirts from across to Wales to those he coaches

"For me personally, the volunteers get a massive amount out of it. As a rule, the volunteers have a rewarding experience and 95% of them have chosen to come back which speaks volumes."

Freddie is always looking for new volunteers to help out on his trips to Africa, with the only requirement being to fit all of their belongings in their hand luggage as all suitcase space is used for donations.

He is also always on the lookout for second-hand rugby kits, which he has been a great help to many young players when they're starting out.


Water mains bursts on Rhigos Mountain Road

There are traffic lights in place while the repair work is completed

A water mains has burst on Rhigos Mountain Road causing some disruption.

The water mains burst near to the power station.

There are two way traffic lights in place between the A465/A4059 (Rhigos Roundabout, Hirwaun ) and the B4522 Dunraven Street (Treherbert) while repair work is completed.

Welsh Water said it expects the repair work to take a couple of days to complete.


Music in the Park 2018

Lloyd Macey is to headline a three-day music festival at the Welsh Mining Experience at Rhondda Heritage Park over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Music In The Park promises to be the biggest open-air music party in Rhondda Cynon Taf this summer - three consecutive days of performances and music for all ages and tastes.

Following Lloyd Macey’s Saturday night concert on August 25, entitled Under the Sky, Sunday, August 26 sees the world-famous Lewis-Merthyr Band take to the stage. Bank Holiday Monday’s Tribute In The Park (August 27) welcomes some of the UK’s top ‘tribute’ acts to the Rhondda.

Cllr Ann Crimmings, Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services, said: “This three-day music festival, at an authentic coal mine, promises to be an August Bank Holiday to remember at the Welsh Mining Experience, in the heart of the Land of Song.

“We are all so proud of Lloyd Macey, a local boy who did so well on last year’s X Factor, and we are delighted to be hosting his first-ever solo concert.”

“Lewis-Merthyr Band also has a proud history and it is fitting that they join us to perform at the former Lewis Merthyr Colliery.

“Finally, fresh from the success of last year’s Tribute In The Park, we are delighted to welcome this open-air concert back, with an exciting new line-up, for 2018.

“This promises to be a fun-filled weekend of music for all tastes as the Welsh Mining Experience continues to attract visitors from all over the world.”

Lloyd has had a remarkable year, entertaining millions of TV viewers across the world as an X Factor finalist. He supported Little Mix on their Glory Days Tour and has performed live to over 150,000 people across the UK and Ireland.

But returning home to the Rhondda is “something special” and Lloyd is looking forward to performing on home soil in front of a home crowd of fans.

Lloyd Macey said: “My family worked in the Lewis Merthyr Colliery for generations and I am sure I will feel emotional performing at such an amazing venue.

“Coming home and launching my first solo single in the Valleys means so much to me. I am extremely excited to be performing a mixture of the songs I have become known for, as well as new material from my debut album. “

Lloyd Macey will be supported on his Under the Sky Concert by two acts from Rhondda Cynon Taf - Brits School graduate Alice Mee-Bishop and Indie band The Brocklebank, both making their festival debuts.

Lewis-Merthyr Band returns home to the Welsh Mining Experience, the former Lewis Merthyr Colliery, on Sunday, August 26.

Joining the Lewis Merthyr Band will be a Massed Male Choir and soloists Ashley Richards and Joanne Huxton for an evening of ‘Movies, Musical and More!’

An evening not to be missed, their repertoire will include blockbuster movie soundtracks and songs from the shows, culminating in Tchaikovsky's epic 1812 Overture.

Founded around 1855, the award-winning Lewis-Merthyr Band is the oldest brass band in the area. Their accolades through the years include being crowned Champion Band of Wales, Welsh League Champions and Miner's Welfare Entertainments (CISWO) Champions.

They have also represented Wales at the European Championships in Copenhagen and won the National Championships of Great Britain.

Tribute in the Park on Monday, August 27 will see some of the finest tribute performers in the country bring the sounds of Pink, Olly Murs, Robbie Williams, Bruno Mars and Take That to the Council’s popular family tourist attraction.

Music In The Park takes place at the Welsh Mining Experience on August Bank Holiday Weekend, August 25-27. For regular updates visit www.rhonddaheritagepark.com


Mayor's Pledge To Young People

Two main priority areas for Rhondda Cynon Taf’s Mayor during his year in Office are the young and the elderly.

Mayor, Councillor Steve Powderhill, is just two months into his role and says he is using his time to focus on the things he feels passionately about.

Born, raised and educated in the Pontypridd area, and living there all of his life, Councillor Steve Powderhill cares greatly about his community and has been the elected County Borough Councillor for Treforest since 2012.

But since becoming Mayor earlier this year, he is also using his role to focus on communities across the County Borough, as well as helping to raise the profile of many charities and organisations.

Educated at Pontypridd Grammar School and Technical College, Rhydyfelin, Councillor Powderhill has been a professional photographer for over 35 years.

During his year as Mayor, he is keen to meet as many people across the County Borough as possible - and has already had a busy few months since his inauguration at the Council’s AGM in May.

He will be supporting many charities during his year of office, including Giving To Pink, Welsh Hearts and Velindre Hospital, as well as giving his support to children living with diabetes in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Mayor of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Councillor Steve Powderhill, said: “The role of Mayor is one of significant importance and one I take very seriously. I believe there are three vital functions of the Mayor’s role - civic, democratic and charitable.

“I have already conducted a Freedom of the County Borough ceremony in honour of MOD St Athan and all Royal Air Force Personnel, Past and Present, along with a very successful Armed Forces Day celebration and commemoration event.

“I have hosted the Rhondda Cynon Taf girls’ football squad at the Mayor’s Parlour in Pontypridd, and many more organisations, and have been invited to 100th birthday celebrations right across the County Borough.

“The civic and charitable elements of the role are two crucial aspects that I feel very passionately about. The young people of today are our future, but we also have to give thanks and recognise the contributions that our older generations have made to our communities.

“This is why I intend to visit many more schools, care homes, charities and local organisations during my term of Office.

“I have a great passion and pride for the work our young people carry out on a regular basis. These people are our future and we have a great wealth of talent amongst our young people.

“This talent just needs to be nurtured for the better of our County Borough in years to come. Our future will be safe in their hands, and as Mayor, I want to leave a legacy for the youth of today as they are our adults of tomorrow.”

Councillor Powderhill says it is intention not to host a Civic Service in 2018/19, but instead he wants to reach out to as many communities across Rhondda Cynon Taf as possible.

He also aims to support many charities along the way, including Macmillan Cancer Support and plans on hosting three Charity Golf Days - one in the Cynon Valley, one in Pontypridd and one in the Rhondda.

Supporting children who are living with diabetes is also something close to the heart of the Mayor as his own grandchild has Type I Diabetes.

The Mayor’s Chaplain for 2018/19 is Reverend Peter Lewis, of St Catherine’s Church, Pontypridd.

The role of Mayor is a far-reaching one, of which raising charity funds is just a part. As the First Citizen of the County Borough, Mayor, Councillor Steve Powderhill will also support a number of civic events, including the Council’s important support of The Festival of Remembrance, Remembrance Day, Christmas events, the Nos Galan Road Races and many more.


Progress report – Tonypandy Town Centre major improvements

The Council’s major ongoing improvements at Tonypandy Town Centre are making good progress – and the overall scheme is on course for completion in autumn 2018, as planned.

The significant works in Tonypandy, for the benefit of local businesses and visitors to the town, began in June 2018. The scheme will see the pedestrian-only zone at Dunraven Street revoked, to allow through traffic in a northerly direction only. Works include construction of new footways, traffic calming features, pedestrian crossing points, street furniture and parking bays.

The scheme will transform the town centre landscape, and the removal of the pedestrianised area will encourage greater passing trade for businesses. The works were generally well-received by traders when announced last year, and the Council has now provided a progress report for the ongoing works.

The works are split into four phases – each representing a section of Dunraven Street. Phases one and two are currently underway, and making good progress. Phase one starts at the traffic lights at Gelli Road, and continues in a northern direction for around 50m, ending near Lloyds Bank. Phase Two resumes where phase one stops, ending just north of Principality.

Phase one is now reaching its final stages, with the completion of carriageway excavation, kerbing works and binder course surfacing. The final carriageway surfacing will be completed at the end of the wider scheme, across the whole of the work area in Dunraven Street. All works in phase one (aside from the final surfacing) are scheduled for completion in August – including electrical installation, street lighting, traffic signal installation and BT works.

Phase two is also well underway. To ensure efficient use of time, street lighting installation and utilities works in phases two and three are taking place at the same time. This will allow the existing street lighting columns, located where the new carriageway will be, to be removed. Excavation and drainage installation in phase two has also commenced.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways, said: “I’m delighted that the works in Tonypandy are making good progress, and are on course to be completed in autumn 2018 as initially planned. Visitors to the town centre will have seen lots of activity ongoing, and it is positive news that the first two phases of the overall scheme are progressing so well – in what is one of the Council’s biggest projects to be delivered during 2018/19.

“Improving the Council’s Highways is a priority area of investment through #RCTinvest – and future-proofing the network through our town centres is no different. The Tonypandy scheme is outlined in the £23.6m Highways Capital Programme for 2018/19, which follows more than £20m of investment in Highways and Transportation schemes during 2017/18.

“I’d like to thank Tonypandy Town Centre businesses and visitors for their continued cooperation during the works, which will inevitably cause some disruption. However, the scheme will deliver long-term improvements to the Town Centre, for the local community to enjoy and benefit from.”

Councillor Robert Bevan, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Enterprise, Development and Housing, said: “This exciting project in Tonypandy will deliver major improvements for Town Centre businesses and visitors for many years to come. The project conforms to the Council’s Corporate Plan ‘The Way Ahead’ – which states that our town centres require further investment to ensure we create more vibrant and enticing Retail Areas.

“There are also a number of other initiatives ongoing in Tonypandy, including the recent announcement that significant Welsh Government funding has been secured towards a £120,000 scheme to renovate Tonypandy Library, following a refurbishment to the building’s exterior last year.

“Cabinet has also recently agreed to extend the Town Centre Maintenance Grant in Tonypandy, which allows businesses and landlords to apply for funding to improve their property fronts. It has proven very popular since it launched in October 2017, with 32 Tonypandy businesses taking it up so far.

“These initiatives, along with free parking introduced last year, are all contributing to improving Tonypandy Town Centre’s economic activity.”

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