We’ll all need a ‘village’ sometime.


‘It takes a village to raise a child’.

I saw a young father being interviewed on TV the other day.  The talk was all about the cost of living crisis and increases in mortgage costs and how young families were finding it hard to cope. You could see the worry and strain on his face.  He started his answer using that old African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child.  He then went on to say, the trouble is, some of us don’t have a village.

There were so many reasons that I wanted to live and bring up my family in Swansea.  The beaches, the countryside, the Swans! Looking back I think one of the main reasons was I had a village to help with my ever growing family.

Carolyn Harris MP Swansea East Launching Everyone Deserves a Summer.

I had parents and a mother in law who would baby sit or collect the children from school; who would cook tea and have sleep overs when the going got really tough.  I had old friends who understood what I was going through who I could call on for a cup of tea and a chat.  Sometimes we didn’t need to say anything, they knew me, and they knew my story.  I just needed them to be there.

When things got tight I had family who would bail me out, arrive with unexpected gifts that would make the bump in the road just a little smoother.

So what do you do if you don’t have a village?

All around the country people are coming together to provide support for those who are having a rough time at the moment.  If we are being honest most of us at some time or another have found it difficult to cope.  Too many bills and not enough money.

I have to say when it happened to me I absolutely hated it.  When I go back to some of those dark days, when each night you had to fight to get to sleep and wrestle through ‘the hour of the wolves’ I still shudder.

Planning Christmas with the Valley Rock Voices team.

For me it came about when I lost my job, or should I say jobs.  One moment I was broadcasting daily on radio with 2 or 3 series on TV and the next day…nothing.  I hadn’t changed or done anything wrong, it was just people needed to ‘freshen up the schedules’.  Some people tried to console me by telling me I’d had a good run…that didn’t help with 4 young kids and a mortgage to pay.

My first reaction was embarrassment.  How was I going to frame this moment?  Would people judge me for being a failure.  The second and more important problem was, how on earth am I going to make a living.

That was when my village kicked into gear.  My parents helped with finances and my friends and church walked beside me, taking me for coffee on those long days with nothing to do except worry.

Singing Christmas songs in the summer sunshine with the DVLA Choir.

It took a while to get back on my feet in so many ways and although it hurt, and it really hurt, in some ways I’m glad that I went through those experiences. It taught me not to take life or success for granted.  It made me value every job that came my way.  It also opened up a world that I would never have experienced if I had continued with a purely broadcasting journey.

Through those dark years I found a new life with my band of brothers ‘The Jacks’.  It meant playing every club and pub up and down every valley, an experience that helped me better understand Wales and what it meant to become an entertainer.

It meant I had to become self-reliant on ‘producing’ things that I could sell from CDs to musicals.  It wasn’t about self-aggrandisement; it was all about trying to find ways to put food on the table.

Pentrehafod School Choir leaving for holidays with jingle bells in their ears.

In those dark days I learnt so many lessons that a lot of our politicians might benefit from learning first hand too.  If you have never had to worry about paying your rent or mortgage or wonder how you’ll pay this week’s grocery bill maybe its easier for you to say we all just have to ‘hold our nerve’.

We know there are difficult decisions to be made but if you’ve never been poor maybe your understanding of getting by is a little more academic than empathetic.

What the experiences, and I say experiences because being down on my luck this has happened a number of times in my life…what the experiences proved to me was how vulnerable I was on my own and it made me realise that its ok to ask for help even when my pride almost held me back.

That is why I’m involved in Carolyn Harris’ ‘Everyone Deserves’ projects.  You only have to read Carolyn’s story to know that she has been through far worse experiences than I have.  Coping with tragedy and lack of resources has given her real insight and has given her the courage and determination to do her best for others.

For many years I’ve worked with Carolyn on ‘Everyone Deserves a Christmas’.  I always say I’m like one of those Royal Heralds who stand at the front making a loud noise before everyone arrives to do the hard work.  I’ve packed a few hampers in my time but I’m a lightweight when it comes to proper service.

The idea for ‘Everyone Deserves a Christmas’ started when Carolyn saw the need in her own community during the school holidays.  Knowing that some kids would go hungry without free school meals Carolyn organised packed lunches and activities to support families through the long summer holidays.

As schools closed yesterday for the summer holidays so the latest programme of events for ‘Everyone Deserves a Summer’ has just been published.  They include special events across our city’s parks together with packed lunches for those who need them.

Of course none of this would be possible without the support of our ‘village’.  On Thursday Carolyn stood up in the House of Commons and tried her best to remember to name and thank everyone who supports these campaigns.  The video is over 2 mins long and includes individual thanks to people like Peter Lynn, Budget Carpets, Low Cost Vans, Morganstone, Dawsons, AB Glass, Huw Cooze as well as the Swans and Ospreys. (Please watch the video to see all of those mentioned)

All of our ‘village’ members give and give again.  Many of them I’m sure, like me, know what its like to be on the receiving end of such kindness.

The only sad thing about the ‘Everyone Deserves’ project is that it is needed at all.

As we prepare to deliver ‘Everyone Deserves a Summer’ campaign the plans are already well underway for the Christmas campaign.

Carolyn has a knack of asking me what we are going to do at Christmas as the Summer campaign comes to an end.  This year I decided to get ahead of the game.  I wrote the new Christmas song in January and apart from recording a surprise special guest vocalist I think we are all ready to go.

This week I’ve recorded the Valley Rock Voices, Grange Primary School the DVLA Ladies Choir and the choir from Pentrehafod.  All we need now is some snow and some tinsel and our latest ‘Everyone Deserves A Christmas’ song will be ready for release at the beginning of December.

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