Coronavirus, resilience and community spirit: People in Wales recap their very different lives in 2021


2021 was the year of the deployment of the vaccination, the Omicron variant, the lifting and then the return of the Covid restrictions.

However, this year has also been a time of community spirit, of people coming together to protect the most vulnerable in society and make a difference in everyday life.

WalesOnline spoke to people from across the country as they took stock of the past year, the challenges they faced and what they hope to bring in 2022.

Read more: The striking photos that tell the story of another extraordinary year in Wales

“Sometimes I have to sit down and think about it all – I’m in shock”

Over the past two years we have seen hundreds of community groups established across Wales to help those in need of support and guidance during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of them is Porthi Pawb (which means ‘Feed everyone’ in Welsh) in Caernarfon, which prepares and delivers hot meals to various people, including the elderly and vulnerable in the town of Gwynedd.

The mastermind behind the idea was Chef Chris Summers, who found himself out of work during the lockdown and wanted to use his time to help his community.

In 2021, the community project has continued to grow.

“I have always been someone who wanted to help the community,” he told WalesOnline.

“And I’ve always been a big believer that no one should go hungry or go without food.

“Maybe there was also a selfish reason to throw Porthi Pawb into the fact that I wanted to keep busy, I am extremely passionate about the hospitality industry and wanted something to do.

Porthi Pawb project coordinator Chris Summers in Caernarfon

“I never thought this band would grow into something this big.”

When Porthi Pawb started during the first lockdown of 2020, the community project distributed 20 to 30 meals per week. In 2021, he managed to distribute an average of 1,000 meals per week.

According to Summers, the project has “snowballed” more than he could imagine over the past year.

“Sometimes I have to sit down and think about it all – I’m totally shocked at how much we’ve accomplished,” he said.

“And it’s not just me – I can’t take all the credit, it’s all of those volunteers, companies and people who have helped on this project.

“We no longer just distribute hot meals, we also provide children’s meals and clothes.

“There’s no denying that it’s been a challenge, especially its impact on my personal life. But everything happens for a reason, it’s my job and I’m so proud of Porthi Pawb.”

When Porthi Pawb started during the first lockdown of 2020, the community project distributed 20 to 30 meals per week. In 2021, he managed to distribute 1,000 per week.

For the New Year, Chris and his team plan to create a professional kitchen, which will not only continue to distribute hot meals to the community of Caernarfon, but will also provide new opportunities for those in need.

Chris further explained, “The kitchen will offer training sessions for people to learn about cooking and other practical cooking skills.

“On top of that, we want to provide a safe space for people with mental health issues. It could be a place where they can maybe experience food and cooking, or a place where they can come and focus. on one thing and forget about the outside world, or even a place where they can come and talk about their issues without judgment or stigma.

“It’s more than just cooking, it’s a community and I can’t believe what we’ve achieved. People from as far away as Cardiff tell me how inspired they are by what we do here .

“If there is anything people should know, it is that anyone can and should do it if they can. It is our responsibility to take care of our communities as much as we can.

“For me, I feel like I have a lot more to do and there is a lot more that I want to do here.”

“I was totally impressed with the resilience of the children”

This year, Gower College music teacher Jonathan Rogers was recognized for his hard work when he was shortlisted for the Pearson National Teaching Award for the Silver Award.

The lecturer from Swansea said the recognition he had received from his colleagues and students was “beautiful”.

With 2022 fast approaching, Mr. Rogers hopes he can continue his work and ensure that students can still access practical opportunities at a time when the performing arts world has been impacted hugely due to Covid.

“Within education, there has been a lot of talk about catching up,” he explained.

“It’s not only because of the educational side of things, but it’s also the social aspect that you get through group activities, like sports and music.

Music teacher at Gower-College Jonathan Rogers

“It was a challenge for us because most of the stuff was online eg virtual choir and performance. Even when we could go back to school we weren’t allowed to sing together due to the potential risk of transmission.

“It’s been quite upsetting because it’s this loss of structure for some and even a loss of freedom. The human connection hasn’t been there and the sooner it comes back, the better.

“I think I speak for most teachers when I say I have been totally impressed with the resilience of children – they just do, maybe even better than some adults. they cannot recover and yet they continued.

“For the new year, I hope we get some things back. People want this face-to-face engagement and collaboration, not just between students but also between colleges and schools. Get away from all those rankings and come together you – people want to collaborate and have the freedom to do so.

“We will do everything step by step”

For Ellen ap Gwynn – the head of Ceredigion County Council, this year has also been difficult.

“It has been very busy and stimulating for us,” explained the advisor.

“As a board, all of our meetings have been virtual which has helped a lot in reducing the carbon footprint and we work both from home and in an office, but that doesn’t mean if things improve, you would definitely go for these face to face interactions rather than working from home. We all need this interaction that I feel.

Head of Ceredigion County Council, Ellen ap Gwynn

“Communities came together and united, especially young farmers from farming communities. They were the backbone of Ceredigion communities, even when the pandemic was really severe.”

The number of Covid-19 cases in Ceredigion continues to increase at an alarming rate and has recorded the highest case rate in Ceredigion since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ceredigion saw the biggest increase in Wales last week, which is a concern for Ellen.

“We are going to do everything step by step as we have always done during this pandemic,” she said.

“They say with the Omicron variant that the peak will be quick and I hope it will be. For the new year, I hope the schools can reopen at the right time so that our children can get their education. I hope. that we can continue to protect our communities, our businesses and the people in our care home.

“We have been faced with so many situations throughout this year and we will continue to do our best to protect Ceredigion.”

“It’s about creating this community in the workplace”

According to company owner Richard Holt of Anglesey, this year has been “unexpectedly amazing”.

The pastry chef runs the Melin Llynnon mill, which was once a tearoom, in Llanddeusant on Anglesey.

He has decided to keep his business closed for most of 2020 due to the continuing threat of coronavirus even as lockdown restrictions have eased.

However, Richard wanted to keep the popular attraction open in one form or another.

Business owner and pastry chef, Richard Holt, owner of the Melin Llynon mill in Llanddeusant on Anglesey, started selling donuts or Monuts as they are called. The new business venture was a huge success.

In the mill kitchen, Richard and his team started creating Willy Wonka-style chocolate – with a few bars containing Melin Llynon coupons for the lucky few, gin and donuts.

“2020 has been a year that has made me sick of hospitality,” he said.

“We had no support and it was nearly impossible for me to open a sit-down cafe during the pandemic. We had to branch out and adapt in some way to still be able to respond to our customers and keep going. to do what we do. “

It was from then that Mr. Holt decided to start selling donuts – or Monuts as they are called, which is a play on words with ‘Mon’ (Welsh name for Anglesey) and ‘donuts ‘.

The new business venture has been a huge success so far, according to Richard.

“We started on the first day of summer vacation,” he explained.

Richard Holt’s Melin Llynon was once a tearoom in Llanddeusant on Anglesey, but now sells chocolate, gin and donuts

“The lines were so long, we created thousands of donuts and at the end of each day we were full. I knew it would be a good business venture, but I had no idea it would be so successful, especially on Anglesey. “

Despite his successes, Richard also acknowledges that the year has posed some challenges, especially during the winter months.

“The last few months have been particularly difficult, especially during the Christmas period,” he said.

“You realize that more and more people depend on online shopping. As an independent business owner, you find that you cannot compete with Amazon.

“But we will continue to adapt and strive. My motivation has always been my staff. Throughout the pandemic, I have always looked for ways to keep them even when financial aids such as the leave scheme touched. their purpose is to create that community in the workplace.

“Next year we’ll have a van that delivers donuts, which I’m so excited about. This year has taught me that the risks are worth taking – I will definitely take it with me throughout. next year and for the rest of my life! “

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