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Today marks an event in my local calendar. Not a National event, not an anniversary or even a local celebration, but a significant event nonetheless.

Today marks the first opportunity, in recent memory, that I have been able to take more than an hour away from the daily challenges or leading this charity, and not feel that another crisis or significant challenge is imminent.

For the last 20 or so weeks, I certainly, and many others among my staff team have been completely engulfed in the ensuing chaos and uncertainty brought on by the corona-virus pandemic, and the related National lock down.

As an organisation, we have been beaten over the head repeatedly by the challenges that we have faced, day after day, week after week, and at times it has felt truly insurmountable.

I am not saying that today it’s all over, and I am not naive enough to believe that the world is returning to what it once was, but I am convinced, for perhaps the first time in a long time, that there is hope.

Hope, that Age Connects Torfaen can and will survive the financial losses it has sustained, Hope, that we have plans in place to modify our services to reach older people in new and creative ways, hope, that we can reshape our organisation to maximise efficiency, reduce costs, and stabilise our income.

For a long time, as a society, we probably underrated hope, it felt like the preserve of a few deserving folk, or the preserve of those facing personal challenge, medical difficulties and the like. It has never before, certainly not for my generation, felt like hope is something that a Nation can collectively hold. But that is what it feels like to me right now, right here in Torfaen, within our sector, within our charity, our staff and volunteer teams, and within our many customers and charity beneficiaries.

As the Government announces more and more incremental easing of the lock down, and includes more and more people in that easing, we are starting to see some very small, but very green shoots of recovery in our charity.

Staff who have been shielding, are seeking to return to their roles, clients are starting to see our staff out in the community, and we look forward to welcoming them back to our Widdershins Centre as soon as we can.

We will look different now, we will look different to our clients and their families and we won’t seem as much like the charity they said goodbye to on the 23rd March, because we have changed, grown and adapted.

Much like the grandchildren that many people have not seen for months, we too, have certainly “shot up”.

Our staff, volunteers, Trustees, the services we deliver, even the clothes we wear to visit people, it has all changed. What hasn’t changed, is the reason we fought so hard to stay open, we remain completely committed to our clients, the older people of Torfaen and their families. We remain committed to reducing isolation, promoting social activity, promoting improved health and mental health, improved mobility and nutrition, and above all the right to absolutely enjoy later life and growing older.

We will still have some changes to go through, some tough decisions to make no doubt, and some more discomfort as we move further away from what we knew, and towards more of the unknown, but we have an ally in that process, in hope.

I will never underestimate the power of hope again, nor will many of my staff, and we will have found a new comfort together. For the first time in a long time, we feel hopeful of the future, hopeful of our charities success, hopeful that we can bring people back together again, hopeful that we will reduce the damaging isolation which has been felt by us all this last few months, and hopeful that the learning we have taken from this terrible pandemic, will forever inform our future actions.

I hope we never have to endure this again, but if we do, I am hopeful we can overcome it.

Angela Reed

Chief Executive Officer

Age Connects Torfaen