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Ben is helping bring communities together to tackle coronavirus

This time last year Ben Davies-Thompson was supporting our city's group of young Sports Ambassadors, working with them to support their communities to find out how joining in sport can transform lives.

Ben sports dev

Now he's working with winners of a different kind. They're called 'Street Champions' - teams of volunteers set up in neighbourhoods across Swansea to help provide essential support to the most vulnerable.

Ben is a council sports development officer who's turned Local Area Co-ordinator for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic. He says that in some ways the roles could not be more different and, in others, they are very similar.

Last year Ben was working at schools across the city, supporting and motivating schools' Young Ambassadors to encourage their peers to get active and encourage them to play sport.

"It was with young people across the board," he said. "I was supporting sports activities and campaigns, working with Young Ambassadors to offer new opportunities in their schools. Also partnering with sports' governing bodies, helping them deliver mass participation opportunities for their sports here in Swansea."

Street champions are not sports people, they're local people who've volunteered in their communities - often informally - to support their neighbours, run errands for them or maybe give them a phone call from time to check they're OK.

Ben said: "It's local people responding to a local issue. It's people coming forward, telling us they're available and what they're able to do.

"As council Local Area Co-ordinators, as part of our coronavirus response, we link and pair up street champions to the people who need help - often those who are vulnerable or self-isolating to stay safe from the virus.

"In our area it started with one local resident, Patrick Mulder, doing some leafleting - now there's 180 street champions in the area of Sketty where I'm working - the whole idea and willingness of local people to support each other has just snowballed."

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the need for thousands of residents to self-isolate for up to three months, the council quickly adapted and extended its Local Area Coordination scheme with a further 22 council staff from other departments have temporarily moved to join the team in its revised role bringing its numbers up to 38.

Each community is working slightly differently but the Local Area Coordinators are also helping people to access foodbanks where needed and providing residents with information on food delivery services.

The aim of Local Area Coordination is to help individuals and communities become more confident, connected and resilient. Coordinators help people to contribute to community life and share the skills and knowledge they have to offer as well as looking out for people who might be lonely and isolated and help them to connect with others and stay involved in community life.

Ben said: "What's happening - and it's happening everywhere with the response to Coronavirus - is that people are linking up with their communities and it's an entirely natural step for them to support each other. Many street champions are telling us they are getting to know many neighbours for the first time."

"One of the great things about sport is that it brings people together. The response to Coronavirus is bringing people together too."   

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