We have been using Gelliwig for the past 6 years as a place to stay with the children from our school who do not have the opportunity for a family holiday. It has become invaluable to us as a comfortable, homely, cheap place to stay. The staff from the school who take the children give their time on a voluntary basis and are always ready and willing to take part. However, if it was not for the team of volunteers form the trust the facility would not exist.
It is a home away from home only made possible by the group of volunteers who run the BTMF. They work quietly in the background fundraising, cleaning, decorating and maintaining an old building in a lovely coastal town in Wales. It is not as if the facility is on their doorstep but they work tirelessly for their community to keep this facility alive and available for the future.
When we visit there, our children have many new experiences including coastal walks, visiting places of interest, or just the fun of digging a hole on a beach or running through the sand dunes. All made possible by the efforts of the volunteers.
Louise Shackleton, Emma Yates and Mark Steventon
Penn Fields is a Special School in Wolverhampton for pupils with Moderate and Complex Learning Difficulties. There are 160 pupils on roll aged between 5 and 19. The school has been using the Gelliwig centre for many years for residential visits as the area around Porthmadog has a wealth of interesting places to visit and activities to do. Currently, we organise an annual trip for a week in May when we take a group of approximately 12 students, aged 13-14, accompanied by 3 staff.
During the week we undertake various activities including walking, beach studies, castle visits, rock scrambling, crabbing and visiting local places of interest. All activities involve being outdoors in the beautiful surrounding areas and have physical, social, emotional and educational benefits to all those involved.
Gelliwig itself is in a fantastic location offering easy access to numerous opportunities. It also offers basic self-catering accommodation to us which enables us to be flexible with our programme of activities. I understand that as a group of volunteers the Trustees are determined to offer this Centre to other user groups at a very affordable price. We regard the Centre as excellent value for money and it stands out as an example of its kind available to us.
Ms L Thackaberry, Headteacher, Pennfield School, Wolverhampton
I first became aware of you when working in Wolverhampton Youth Service, when I moved to Worcestershire Youth Service, I continued to use your facilities and this has continued into my work managing KDYT, a timespan of over 14 years.
Over 200 individual young people have used the facilities through this engagement, and many more I am sure from other organisations, and this has had a significant impact on them and us, especially as a charity.
That you are run by volunteers allows you to keep the costs down which makes the facility much more accessible; also, being a small team of volunteers, you have been able to respond to some lastminute requests which has also been very helpful.
The impact on young people facilitated by this venue cannot be overstated, I have below put a few cases/experiences that encapsulate this:
Mike Oliver- Brooke, Kidderminster and District Youth Trust
In 2017 and 2018 I and others have provided a holiday for 24 Asylum seekers who meet weekly at the City of Sanctuary Drop in Centre at the Church in Broad Street, Wolverhampton. We are attenders at the Wolverhampton Quaker meeting and the beneficiaries have not had to make any financial contribution. The first visit was an overnight exploratory visit and the second was a five day residency.
The venue was Gelliwig, in Porthmadog that is a residential centre owned by the Birch Thompson Memorial Fund that I now know to be a totally voluntary Charity that is being nominated for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. I am happy to support this because the support that we were given as volunteers from the Charity has been outstanding. Three of our volunteers were given Advanced DBS check and Local Authority Driving Assessments enabling us to meet Insurance requirements.
Two of the Trustees accompanied us on the first venture to ensure that all of our concerns were met at Gelliwig; it was in-house training in the best possible way.
We received guidance on opportunities available to us in the area and the second visit Beach days at Black Rock Sands and Barmouth in addition to a trip from Porthmadog to Carnarvon on a Steam Train owned by the Welsh Highland Railway. At Carnarvon a visit around the magnificent Castle was enjoyed by all.
Kevin Ceney, Wolverhampton Society of Friends
As volunteer leaders of Beckminster Church Sunday Club we have taken groups of children to Gelliwig for a weekend away every year for 9 years. The ages of the children ranged from 8 years to 16, although our own daughter has been going since she was 1. We are very fortunate to have a loyal and reliable group of leaders to enable us to visit Gelliwig year on year. It was only ever meant to be a ‘one off’ trip but the children, and their parents, asked us time and time again if we would be doing another weekend there. The youngsters had enjoyed themselves so much they just couldn’t wait to go again. Indeed, my own 3 children, who are very fortunate to have holidays abroad each year constantly ask when we were going back to Gelliwig. There is a certain magic about the place, everyone who visits Gelliwig has to go back!
For many of the children we have taken to Gelliwig this would be their only holiday of the year, in fact one or two children had never been on a beach or seen the sea before. We will never forget the look of sheer joy on the faces of those that were paddling in the sea for the first time in their lives. Something that most of us take for granted!
Gelliwig is a large house with all the facilities required for groups and families. The kitchen and dining areas are well equipped. The lounge has plenty of seating for chilling out and tv time in the evenings, there are several bedrooms set out in a dormitory style and numerous showers and toilets. The garage houses washing and drying facilities and is full of crab lines, buckets and spades and all sorts of beach games and equipment for communal use. There is a small garden and patio area where many a BBQ has been held over the years.
We are lucky that we have the use of a minibus kindly donated by Colton Hills School. The drivers are also Sunday School volunteers and have had their minibus driver training provided by the Local Authority. This has been an enormous help to us in keeping the cost of taking the children to Gelliwig to a minimum. We cater for the group ourselves, and with 3 large supermarkets within walking distance of the house we are never short of food and choice.
Gelliwig is loved by all that stay there – it is a much needed holiday home for less privileged families.
Donna and Ian Watson, Beckminster Methodist Church
I was lucky enough to visit Gelliwig three times during my time at Colton Hills, once with the school orchestra and twice with my class, taken there by my form teacher Mr Adams and Mr Harrington-Jones.
It was a great experience to be able to go away for a week and experience that corner of North Wales and I've always looked back fondly at some of the memories, which include playing football on the beach at Black Rock Sands, going to Star Coast at Pwllheli, spending a day at the Centre for Alternative Technology and exploring Porthmadog.
I've been lucky enough to travel a lot and see many corners of Europe and North America, but I always hold affection for that time and that place and would love the opportunity to go back and see it again.
It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone at the Birch Thompson Trust that young people and disadvantaged groups are still able to go to Gelliwig and experience the centre after nearly 40 years and I hope it continues in the same vein going forward.
My sincerest congratulations on the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.
Community Reporter Express & Star, James Vukmirovic