The Tŷ Hafan shop in Bridgend has a lovely family atmosphere, and not just because many of the volunteers there have a close bond. Three members of the team are actually close blood relatives and, even more unusual than that, two of the family have come all the way from Australia.
Brenda Howells from Broadlands in Bridgend, has been volunteering at the shop for the past two years. In April 2018, she was joined at her regular Wednesday afternoon shift by her sister Marion, and, more recently by Marion’s daughter, Kim.
Marion said: “My husband and I left Bridgend and emigrated to Australia in 1979. Off we went with four young children, ten suitcases and one twin pram. We love our life in Brisbane, but I’d always dreamt of coming back to Bridgend for a whole year once our children were fully grown, taking the time to really get to know my faraway family and friends back in Wales”.
She continued: “We knew that Brenda worked here in the shop as she often talked so positively about it. Because she was so passionate about it, I decided to volunteer myself for the year that we were here. Although Brenda had told me so much about the charity, it was the introductory volunteer day at the hospice that sealed the deal for me. I saw myself where the money goes and it made me realise what I’d actually be volunteering for. The hospice and the people were so lovely – I was really impressed. I’d never seen anything like it!”
One of Marion’s children decided to come with her mum for the year long adventure. Kim – who is a twin – had been working full time at a coffee shop in Bridgend, but recently dropped her hours and joined her mum and aunty at the Tŷ Hafan shop.
“I wanted to do something with purpose”, said Kim. “Mum and Brenda talked so much about their work at the shop that I thought I was missing out. Mum and I both work in retail back at home in Brisbane so we both had a good idea of what was involved. I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience. Life in the UK is so different. I’m spending time getting to know aunts and uncles, nephews, nieces, cousins and other family members that I’ve only just met. I really think it’s going to be difficult to go home. I could easily stay.”
As well as working in retail, Marion and Kim also ran a charity shop in Brisbane. With that experience behind them, they were well placed to realise just how efficiently the Bridgend shop operated.
“It’s really well run and organised”, said Kim. “You have Gift Aid here, which we don’t have in Australia. If we were staying longer in the UK, we would love to have become even more involved with Tŷ Hafan”.
Brenda, a retired nurse, is delighted to have her sister and niece back home and even more pleased that they’ve joined her at the shop.
“Before this long visit, they’d only come over to Bridgend every two years, and I have never been to Australia to visit, so working along side them is lovely,” she said.
“Tŷ Hafan is an absolutely amazing charity. I’m so proud of Tŷ Hafan and of the shop and the work we all do. The volunteers here are warm and genuine and we’re all part of a team. I’m extremely happy”, she added.
Not content with getting her sister and niece on board, Brenda has also persuaded her husband to get involved with volunteering for Tŷ Hafan. The couple have taken part in the Rainbow Run and the Snowdog Trail, and frequently help out distributing posters and marshalling at events.