The Action Resource Centre (ARC)
“The area gets slated quite a bit as it is deprived, but when people take the time to come into the community, it’s so close, everybody will help anybody.”
The Action Resource Centre (ARC) is a Communities First project – an initiative created by the Welsh Assembly to tackle poverty.
The ARC was established to help local people access opportunities to help them find work, and regenerate the Blaenymaes area.
Working with other partners, including the university, the trust provides IT and retraining courses, as well as clubs like the Crazy Computer Club which enables children to play computer games, listen to music and receive help with homework.
The centre, part run by volunteers, also offers numerous activities courses.
82-year-old volunteer, Sybil Coleman, set up the Crafty Friends drop-in group to teach arts and crafts to young people in Portmead.
“This group started because we realised that funding is getting very difficult, especially for families. A lot of activities cost money, so we decided to look at our own skills and what we enjoy doing – which was knitting and sewing and some craftwork – and we thought it’d be nice to share those skills,” Sybil explains.
The ARC café serves local people a variety of healthy meals and provides a buffet service to businesses. The café trains and employs volunteers in catering so they can go on to paid employment.
Centre Manager Anthony, also a Communities First coordinator, said the key to a successful agency lies in giving local people hope for the future.
“People are unaware of how good things could be. The key for all agencies is to switch people on. It was so much worse ten years ago, but people are now getting engaged and building hope.”
Sybil agrees – and adds that the Action Resource Centre provides the local community with a valuable meeting space.
“It’s the human need to be together, to get on and grow together. I think these little shoots we’re seeing here will mature.”
She also believes communities should draw lessons from history in finding ways to cope with austerity together.
“I saw it in my childhood. My father lost his business in the 30s. There was neighbourly support, there was family support and together we did something and we made something. That human need is basically there. It’s got to be awakened, and I think it is possible.”
The ARC Centre, which was run by the Blaenymaes, Portmead, Penplas Development Trust, was taken over by the council last year.
Austerity has led to some of the services being cut – but the centre still continues to provide local employment and education services for the community.