The Be Seen project was launched by the AWF in Merthyr Tydfil last week. In the run up to Carers Rights Day 2016, the event emphasised a carers’ right to be visible within their community. The Forum collaborated with VAMT and local carer support group Café Cwtch to create the photo exhibition which acted as a catalyst for a wider conversation within Merthyr Tydfil around making the town a Carer Friendly Community.
In information published by ‘Carers Week’ in 2016, it was stated that ‘3 out of 4 carers don’t feel their caring role is understood or valued by their community’. While the role of unpaid carers is crucial to society, their contributions often pass undervalued or unnoticed. It is now estimated that there are more than 370,000 carers in Wales and these numbers are rapidly increasing, meaning that when these individuals are discussed it is often in the manner of statistics, over-views and reports; their identities absorbed in a label so taken for granted that those behind it are often invisible. The Be Seen project, by very definition, wants to tackle that sense of invisibility.
The launch event for Be Seen was held in Redhouse Cymu, Merthyr Tydfil on November 22nd. Bridgend based photographer Mandy Thomas had attended a Café Cwtch coffee morning a couple of weeks before and captured a mixture of gorgeous portraits and natural shots of the ladies who meet there on a weekly basis. Café Cwtch support group was created by Michelle Thomas. When her son received his autism diagnosis, she was left feeling lost, with a sense of ‘what now’? The experience was isolating and with the realisation that many other parents must feel the same, Café Cwtch was born.
The photographs of the group along with personal anecdotes and snippets of their life stories, were displayed in the grand Plymouth Courtyard area of Redhouse Cymru and were met with a very positive reception.
Among those who attended the event were; Her Worship the Mayor Councillor Margaret Davies, Chief Officer for Social Services Lisa Curtis Jones, Social Services Cabinet Member Linda Matthews, Councillor Mike O’Neil representing AM for Merthyr Dawn Bowden and Equalities Champion for the County Borough Ernie Galsworth. With a great mix of councillors, carers and their families the event proved a huge success in starting a dialogue between different areas of the community. The Café Cwtch group were delighted to be able to talk directly with those local authority staff members with many keen to continue working alongside the group and other carers in Merthyr Tydfil when more discussions regarding a Carer Friendly Community begin in the New Year.