AN AMBULANCE technician from Newport is hoping to spread some festive cheer among the homeless community – and is calling on local people and businesses to help.

Rhys Tucker, an Emergency Medical Technician at the Welsh Ambulance Service, is making gift-filled shoeboxes for people on the city’s streets to brighten up their Christmas.

The surprise parcels will be filled with much-needed essentials like toiletries, as well as sweet treats and a handwritten card.

The 35-year-old, who is based in Cwmbran, will gift wrap the boxes and deliver them over the Christmas period.

Rhys said: “Christmas is seen as a time for joy and celebration, but for homeless people it can be one of the hardest and loneliest periods of the year.

“Some people in the homeless community don’t have a single thing to their name, so I want to give them something to brighten their Christmas and show that they’re not alone.

“For us, it’s just a small token, but for them, it could go a long way.

“If I can brighten one person’s Christmas, then it is mission accomplished as far as I see it.”

Rhys has been supporting Newport’s homeless community in his own time for two years, having been compelled to help after receiving an emergency call while on-duty to a man whose tent was set alight and possessions destroyed.

He organised a collection to buy the man a replacement tent and blankets, a thoughtful act which would later see him clinch First Responder of the Year at the South Wales Argus Health and Care Awards, an accolade which also recognised his quick-thinking actions to help people in distress on Newport’s Town Bridge.

Risca-born Rhys, who now lives in Newport, said: “I’ve always had an affinity with the homeless because I’ve also found myself on hard times in the past.

“Fortunately, I was never on the streets but you’re only one bad decision away from losing your job, relationship and home, and being in the exact same position.

“My motto is never to kick a man when he’s down, because you never know when you’ll be down on your luck and in need of someone’s help.”

Darren Panniers, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Operations Manager in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area, said: “Rhys goes above and beyond to help homeless people in Newport, which has not only earned him the respect of that community but has also helped him to build rapport, which has proved just as valuable in his on-duty role.

“We’re proud of his efforts over the last couple of years, and in particular his shoebox project, which will hopefully put a smile on people’s faces this Christmas.”

If you can help by donating empty shoeboxes and supplies, please email Rhys.Tucker@wales.nhs.uk

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