2023 has been another challenging year – locally, nationally and internationally.

No where has this been more evident, than with the Middle East conflict, which has stirred up strong emotions here in our own local community.

In the UK we are fortunate to live in a relatively peaceful and stable country. We can only hope that 2024 sees less war and conflict and some progress in resolving long standing problems.

But I want to focus on it’s the importance of community and in particular grassroots organisations in my last column of the year.

We are so fortunate to have so many committed clubs and volunteers, providing opportunities for people to take part. As an example, I last week I visited Newport Saints FC with city council leader Jane Mudd.

They are still relatively young - but they are ambitious and one with the community at the heart of their plans for growth.

At present there around four hundred people (across all ages) involved and they want to increase these numbers, so more people from the city have the chance to participate in sport.

One of the barriers facing young people is the costs of being part of a sports club. This isn’t unique to any one sport – whether that’s football, cricket, swimming etc.

A recent report by the charity Sported found 74 per cent of young people were not able to afford fees or subscriptions. This is concerning, but it’s why it’s good to see clubs like Newport Saints offering players, who are not FAW registered, the opportunity to train for free.

Whenever I visit local grassroots sports groups, one of the main topics of conversation is the challenges they face in being able to obtain the necessary funding to support their work.

I believe there is more work to be done by the likes of Welsh Government and organisations such as Sports Wales and the FAW to make clubs more aware of the different funding pots, which are available to them.

Not a sports club, but still a grassroots organisation, one group who have been very successful in obtaining funding, has been the Rogiet Community Café.

Last month it was awarded more than £450,000 by the National Lottery Community, which will support their plans to set up a community shop, a teaching kitchen and kitchen garden.

It was great to visit them last week - and it was particularly pleasing to see the different ages of people using the café. It was evident how valued the café is by the community.

In these challenging times, I want to see our communities strengthened. I am determined to use my position to support our local fantastic groups, like the two I have mentioned to help achieve this.