ADULT LEARNING WALES have shared their excitement as their Caerphilly branch has been open for 25 years.
The Caerphilly branch was formed in 1998 and was lucky enough to have a base unit at a local school, in the adult education facility at St. Ilans.
This allowed a variety of classes to be held, some accredited others non accredited. Classes included, art, craft, mosaics, creative writing, history, psychology, Spanish, IT, BSL, to name but a few.
The centre encouraged people to just drop in, have a chat and a cuppa, and find out more about the courses.
The mosaic group designed and created a mural in the local swimming pool to demonstrate their skills. Laughter weekends were arranged where Julie Critchmore took groups away to various locations where people were encouraged to build their confidence and self-esteem.
Other activities to promote confidence building and encourage socialising were the numerous charity stage shows put on by the branch. There was an annual Eisteddfod with various categories of competitions. Each Christmas a meal was cooked at the centre for all that wanted to attend.
St. Ilans educational facility was closed after the school closed in 2007 and the classes scattered throughout Caerphilly. A base was established in St. Catherine’s Church Hall and later at St. Helen’s Church Hall. Classes continued and to bring people together, the Eisteddfod continued together with Easter and Christmas Teas. Christmas meals are arranged in different locations.
Some of the members have been able to go on holiday abroad several times, and without the branch this would not have been possible as they would not have had the confidence to travel alone. The branch is always running trips to interesting sites again to provide opportunities for learning.
One of the strengths of the branch has always been its committee and the amount of volunteering people were prepared to undertake on behalf of the branch. Some attended regional forums, served on Council and run planning sessions for the learners to give their views on courses to be run for the following year.
The branch has been so important for individual members becoming a lifeline as a caring community looking out for each other. Some of the comments from members confirm this.
Three members have belonged to the branch from the beginning and are still attending classes. Aurian Harris, Diana Williams and Mary Thomas.
Aurian Harris: “It has been amazing, helped me get out and to make new friends, being able to socialise, meeting nice people.”
Diana Williams: “Always enjoyed classes and met some lovely people over the years, brought companionship.”
Mary Thomas: “Saved my life when my husband Keith died in 1996, I was lost and found friendship with the branch, made friends, and been friends ever since.”
One of the first chairs of the branch, and later Council member, Jannette Hart, “It saved me, when I found out I could no longer work due to my disability. It taught me about democratic organisations.”
Another former chair, Kevin Jenkins, “I was in a dark place, and picked up a leaflet about the WEA in my doctors, I never looked back, and had many enjoyable moments within the branch.”
Jude Williams: “Always found the classes very stimulating.”
Caroline Kaminsky: “They were like family, all helping one another. Brought me out of myself, became more assertive.”
David MaCmanus: “Enjoyed history and IT, learnt a lot in a community environment.”
Suzzanne Price: “I wouldn’t be here today without the branch, I was in a deep depression and everyone helped and supported me, forever thankful.”