Church stories House of Good

churches provide a ready made group of people who care

We catch up with Father Huw Bryant, Mission Area Leader of Dyffryn Clwyd who tells us how his church supports its farming community through volunteer work.

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St Cynhafal, Llangynhafal

“Llangynhafal is an isolated village in Denbighshire, north Wales. It is situated in the rich and fertile Vale of Clwyd and is sheltered by mountains.”

“The parish is made up of a large dispersed farming community who live and work in the isolated farmsteads. There is no church hall or real facilities at Llangynhafal and it has been left for the church and churches in neighbouring villages to work together to provide community services. As shown in The House of Good report, churches are quickly becoming the lifeline for their local communities.”

The Farm Crisis Network (Farm Community Network) is a national charity which supports farmers and their families through difficult times. Church volunteers help run it in this area. The initiative helps tackle isolation in farming, offering help to farmers who are not wanted to be helped easily.  There is a high suicide rate within farming as well as mental health issues. One of the big problems is that the younger generation are not wanting to work in the farming industry.  As a result, the older generation are trying to keep their farms going probably when they are really too old, or unwell to do so.”

Members of the church act as volunteers and operate help lines, checking up on the farmers and farmworkers. One of the congregation is Mair Ansell, who acts as a telephone co-ordinator. If a farmer is in a crisis, he would ring the national helpline who would take the details and then pass them to Mair. She then ensures the right help is sent to the farmer.  Depending on the season she receives on average 1 call a week. Mair speaks of her experience working as a volunteer:

“Our work with this network make all the difference to the livelihoods of farmers. In January 2020, during the heavy flooding in parts of Wales, a farmer found his fields flooded. He had managed to move his sheep out of the water to higher, safe ground but had no feed for them. He used the Farm Crisis Network and we were able to put him in touch with a charity who was able to give animal feed. This took two weeks to happen, which was a stressful time for the farmer waiting to see if he he would be able to save his flock.”

“Churches have a ready made group of people who care for their communities and have the right qualities for volunteer work. Being part of St Cynhafal church is why she become a volunteer for the Farm Crisis Network. If churches were not there, the Farm Crisis Network would not know who to turn to in order to attract volunteers. This could then jeopardise the good work that currently takes place.”

“With no volunteers to man the lines, people like myself, there would be more stress placed on the farming community and I do believe we would see more suicides. There are other charities that could help, but the Farm Crisis Network understands farmers and farming, they are proud people, often not wanting to ask for help.”

We thank Tad Huw Bryant and Mair Ansell for sharing with us the good work they do at St Cynhafal, Llangynhafal. Please visit their website for further information.