THE Prince of Wales visited ( May 14) a Merthyr Tydfil community centre that has played a key role in supporting local residents throughout the pandemic.
HRH Prince Charles was at Dowlais Engine House to hear about the significant amount of work carried out by staff and volunteers across services ranging from food parcel handling to Covid-19 testing in partnership with the Military.
The Prince was met by Lord Lieutenant of Mid Glamorgan Peter Vaughan and Engine House Manager Cllr David Hughes, who took him on a tour of the building, including the donation room where all food donations are received and packed.
Cllr Hughes told him how the Engine House had given out more than10.5 tonnes of food since day one of the pandemic – as well as delivering for Merthyr Cynon Food Bank – feeding over 2,000 people throughout the county borough.
This was followed by a brief dance presentation from Katrina Lyndon School of Ballet & Contemporary Dance and Zentai Karate Club.
The Engine House has a comprehensive range of facilities and activities such as self-defence, dance and drama and these young people involved gave Prince Charles demonstrations.
Pupils from Abercanaid Community School also gave a presentation on their efforts in ploggng – picking up litter while jogging.
Prince Charles was also met by Council Leader and community volunteer Cllr Lisa Mytton, who outlined the history of the Engine House and showed HRH photographs of a previous visit by his Grandfather, King George V.
The Prince was then introduced to the Engine House Trustees, food delivery volunteers and members of Voluntary Action Merthyr Tydfil.
HRH was then introduced to Deputy Chief Executive Alyn Owen – who led on the first mass Covid-19 testing pilot programme in Wales – and the testing planning and operational teams made up of the Military and Council staff.
The Engine House was one of the main venues used to deliver the testing programme, for which there were just seven days to plan said, Mr Owen.
“With extensive knowledge and understanding of the community, the plan developed did exactly this and when the first mass testing centre opened on 28 November, there was a queue of local residents waiting outside to be tested – a fantastic achievement and recognition of the hard work with the communities.”
Within the first week,400 local residents were identified as being asymptomatic. “These were 400 individuals in a close-knit community that were potentially infecting family and friends and accelerating the spread of the virus,” Mr Owen added.
“The approach taken in Merthyr Tydfil was then replicated by other communities across the UK, including school testing, which was a key element of the Merthyr Tydfil approach. This has since been developed into best practice that is the backbone of current testing in all educational establishments across Wales and other parts of the UK.”