What was the Standing Together Cymru project?
We launched the Standing Together Cymru project in Newport in March 2019.
Standing Together Cymru was a three-year project funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and worked in partnership with four housing associations across South East Wales (United Welsh, Derwen Cymru, Newport City Homes and Melin Homes).
The project included 30 weekly peer support groups in retirement and extra care housing schemes. We ran the groups for six months. The groups aimed to deepen social connections and improve well-being.
Standing Together Cymru was part of the work we do in our programmes on co-production. Co-production ensures our participants have an active voice regarding the activities they participate in and the support they receive. We run peer group initiatives with different groups of people across the life course.
Standing Together Cymru was born from the Standing Together London project.
Standing Together Cymru groups
The Standing Together Cymru team facilitated groups from early February 2019. Our group facilitators started each group with a 'getting to know each other' activity, which led to discussions on other topics and interests. We then designed the subsequent sessions around the themes the groups brought up. This is just one example of how important it is for the groups to belong to the participants rather than the people who run the group (facilitators).
What did our participants and staff think of the groups?
It is a privilege to be part of these groups and hear about the rich and fascinating lives everyone has; each week I leave with laughing in my ears and a little bit wiser.
- John Mcloughlin, Group Facilitator
I am so pleased to be involved with this project knowing that it won’t cease with the end of the Lottery funding. I hope it will also be an opportunity for people in later life to consider whether they would like to volunteer and use their life skills and experience to sustain the groups.
- Claire Burke, Community Engagement Officer
Creating a project that is sustainable
We were very excited that these groups could be sustained. This was made possible through the work of our Community Engagement worker, Claire Burke.
As the project evolved, Claire aimed to identify potential volunteer facilitators to take the groups forward once the Mental Health Foundation staff moved on. These volunteer facilitators could be group members, staff from the housing associations or external volunteers. She planned to run facilitator training sessions to support people in developing the skills to be able to run groups.
The housing associations are supporting the volunteers long-term. We are also ensuring that we provide a space for the volunteers to connect and share through our quarterly volunteer forum.
Body image and mental health in later life
At the launch of Standing Together Cymru, we introduced our theme of body image for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019. We facilitated two life drawing sessions at the event with an older model to start discussions around this topic.
Our evaluation of the Standing Together Cymru project is the culmination of three years of work which adapted to meet the challenge of the pandemic.
Ruth's story: my lifelong connection with nature
Ruth, a participant of Standing Together Cymru, helps tend a communal garden at her sheltered housing complex in Newport, South East Wales.