A group of women who give up their spare time to run a café for people visiting families in prison have won a top volunteering award.

The Bridgend Soroptimists stepped in when Barnardo’s Cymru needed people to serve refreshments at the visitor centre it runs at the G4S-managed HMP Parc.

For the last two and a half years they’ve been serving up teas and coffees to families arriving to visit their relatives, some of whom have travelled long distances. The Soroptimists have also raised £2,000 to furnish the visitor centre’s conservatory and fill it with toys for the youngest visitors.

The Soroptimists have now been recognised by winning a Marsh Trust Award for the best team of Barnardo’s volunteers in Wales. The awards are run by the Marsh Christian Trust to celebrate exceptional volunteering.

Sarah Crawley, Director of Barnardo’s Cymru, said: “The Soroptimists have made a fantastic contribution to the visitor centre we run on behalf of G4S. Many of the visitors have had long journeys to get to the prison. Some are anxious when they arrive. The volunteers not only provide refreshments but help create a welcoming and reassuring atmosphere. We couldn’t do it without them. We are also very grateful for the wonderful toys they’ve donated which the younger visitors are going to love.”

Volunteer Eurwen Richards said: “It’s not just about serving cups of tea but talking to people and making them feel welcome and reassured. The other day there was a little boy who had travelled from West Wales and when I spoke to him in Welsh he started beaming. We find it very worthwhile volunteering and it’s very much a team effort with the Barnardo’s staff who run the centre.”

Ian Coles, Deputy Director of HMP Parc, said: “Without the volunteers the visitor centre would be nowhere near what it is today. It’s a partnership which has really grown.”

Barnardo’s Cymru has been working in partnership with G4S over a number of years, running interventions to support families. More recently it has been training teachers to identify and support children in schools who are affected by having a relative in prison.

This can leave them feeling isolated and stigmatised. They may suffer from bullying and mental health issues. Barnardo’s Invisible Walls Accord project funded by the National Lottery Community Fund allowed the charity to create a resource pack for teachers so they can plan lessons to reduce stigma among their pupils and encourage children affected by parental imprisonment to come forward for support.

Soroptimists Cherry Cadwallader, Bethan Healey, Sharon Dixon, Venetia Crowther and Eurwen Richards. Serving the cakes is Sarah Crawley, Director of Barnardo’s Cymru

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