WHEN two Risca women set out to help their neighbours at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, they never thought that just eight months later, they would be a registered charity and be providing a huge range of services for the local community and bringing the community together.

Dawn Derraven started the idea by offering to help her neighbours with shopping and some other small errands in March and posted about it on social media to see if anyone else would like to be involved and Tara Holloway was the first to respond.

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Tara Holloway (front) and Dawn Derraven

Together they began the Risca Covid-19 volunteers’ group which now has almost 200 volunteers and helps 160 families and individuals each month.

The pair have seen an overwhelming response from the community.

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A banner of support from PMW on one of their sites

“Some of the people we have helped during the first lockdown have since come and started to volunteer for us. Its heartwarming to see,” said Ms Derraven.

Initially they began doing shopping, prescription runs, small errands and making ‘kindness calls’ – of which they do around 150 a week, for people who were shielding or self-isolating during the initial coronavirus pandemic. This still continues today; however, they have expanded their services after seeing gaps in provisions and an increase in demand for various other services in the local community.

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A prescription run by one of the volunteers

They have opened up a ‘uniform shop’ which contains donated items of school uniform for each of the four schools in the town where people are able to get uniform if they are unable to afford it in the school shops or can’t get to one of the school shops. They also have coats and bags available too.

There is also the hugely successful tin on a wall campaign which sees 2.5 tonnes of food collected each month and distributed to the local foodbanks and charities while keeping a small amount for their own foodbank.


When the first lockdown was eased, the group began setting up some craft and chat sessions where the vulnerable people – known as their VIPs – were able to go in small socially distanced groups to chat. They would be accompanied – in line with social distancing – by the volunteer who would call them regularly which according to Ms Holloway would “make them feel more at ease about being out.” When the second national lockdown was announced, these sessions were put on hold but are looking to restart as soon as they are able. Ms Derraven added: “We’ve had some of our VIPs calling us asking when they are going to start up again.”

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Some of the many volunteers

The group are also running some Christmas themed campaigns to help their VIPs. Ms Holloway explained: “We’re going to have a Christmas tree here in the hall and also one online and they will have tags on with generic information about one of our VIPs. Anyone who wishes to help provide some happiness to others can choose a tag and create a shoe box of gifts for the person.

“The information will include the gender and age range of the person and some things that they like, which will help others to be able to figure out something nice for them.

“Most of the people we help will be unlikely to get anything for Christmas so it will be a nice treat for them,” said Ms Holloway.

They will also be providing their VIPs with a winter warmer kit – which will include items like gloves and woolly socks.

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The toy appeal

There is also a toy appeal that has been launched to provide new and boxed toys to children in the community who are in care, struggling families and to the Grange hospital and Noah’s Ark.

Alongside all this, there are a number of projects in the pipeline, including renovating and moving to a larger and permanent base where they plan to have space to host a number of events and are working with local businesses to create an integrated network.

To find out more visit https://www.riscacv19volunteers.com/ and to donate towards the group visit gf.me/u/y7tunq

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