Key workers in North Wales are praising the generosity of North Wales holiday cottage owners who are housing NHS and other frontline workers free of charge.
The holiday cottage owners, whose usual rental income has been completely wiped out by the coronavirus lockdown, have generously donated accommodation to workers who need to self-isolate away from elderly or vulnerable family members in their own homes.
The Ciando accommodation scheme was launched by Menter Môn, a not-for-profit company which works to support rural communities across North Wales.
Dafydd Gruffyd, managing director of Menter Môn said: “On the one hand, we were aware of an increasing number of frontline workers having no choice but to look for temporary homes to self-isolate. On the other hand, many property owners were coming forward offering to help.
“We realised we could intervene and help centralize the information, hoping to make the process easier for both workers and property owners.”
So far, 34 key workers have found free accommodation via the scheme, but more holiday cottages are required to meet the ongoing demand. There are around 18,000 people employed by the Betsi Cadwaladr health board in North Wales, with many more workers employed across the region in other essential roles.
Gwion Llwyd, owner of Dioni Holiday Cottages, is helping to match the accommodation available with the key workers in need. He said:
“We have been overwhelmed with the support we have received from property owners volunteering their accommodation totally free of charge.
“But it’s important to remember that the key workers are the real heroes here. Although we have done our best to find them suitable accommodation, we are still asking them to return to a place that isn’t their home, away from their children, family and loved ones, often after working a twelve hour shift on a hospital ward.”
Lucy, a GP receptionist from Gwynedd, is one of the workers who has benefitted from the Ciando scheme. She left her home to isolate away from a family member who has heart and respiratory problems. She said:
“Having somewhere to safe stay has really helped in what has been such a stressful situation. Louise and Gwion from Dioni have been fantastic, what they are doing is helping so many keyworkers out there to carry on with their job roles without exposing their loved ones to risk. It’s great to see the community coming together in such a scary time for everyone.”
“A lot of our accommodation owners across the region are going through a really tough time and it’s very difficult to predict when things might start getting back to normal. Our natural urge to welcome visitors with open arms to our beautiful corner of the world has been put on hold. But this enforced separation will end, and we will emerge stronger as we all learn to appreciate time spent in the great outdoors with friends and family.”
Jim Jones, CEO of North Wales Tourism said:
“It’s great to see businesses who are not only going through a tough time themselves but going the extra mile to support our essential workers.”
All key workers who have relocated to a holiday property as part of the Ciando scheme have been given a poster to display at the front of their accommodation, to notify neighbours and locals that they are frontline workers. All properties will be given a deep clean after their key worker guests have left.
Holiday cottage owners and key workers who would like to find out more about Menter Môn’s Ciando initiative can find more information online, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01341 247 200.
Holiday Cottages for heroes – the North Wales community comes together to support key workers
- The Baa Haus in Trearddur Bay
Michelle Bartleet-Greavey is the owner of Baa Stool, a luxury sheepskin furniture brand based in Denbighshire. She had hoped to launch the Baa Haus – a new build holiday home in Trearddur Bay furnished with Baa Stool designs – in time for families booking for the Easter school holidays. Instead, the property’s first guests are key workers who were in desperate need of alternative accommodation.
“Being able to self-isolate at Michelle’s house has helped in what has been a really challenging time,” said Andrew, a carer who works with elderly and vulnerable people on Anglesey. “One of the elderly ladies we care for very sadly passed away last week. It has been an extremely sad week for us and very heavy going, but knowing I have a safe place to stay without the additional worry that I might pass anything on to my family has been a real relief.”
- Bach Wen near Caernarfon
Ben Robinson was looking forward to a busy first year at Bach Wen, an events venue and collection of holiday cottages on the coast near Caernarfon. Instead, he has been dealing with the fall out of cancelled weddings, cancelled holiday bookings and an uncertain season ahead. He said: “It’s our first year since we took over Bach Wen, so it’s far from ideal unfortunately. But we wanted to do something positive, and being part of the Ciando scheme means we can help to protect those closest to the brave people who are working on the frontline of this pandemic.
“We have also been able to offer accommodation for the dogs of our keyworkers, which means that they have the company of their four-legged companion to come home to. Our site is in a beautiful coastal location with plenty of outdoor space including a private beach. Our key workers can get plenty of exercise and fresh air, as well as amazing sea views to help wind down after their difficult shifts.”
Cherise is a health and social care student who is staying at Bach Wen. After her placement at Ysbyty Gwynedd was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, she volunteered to work full time on a Covid-19 ward, supporting qualified nursing staff by looking after the personal care of patients. She said: “Having the opportunity to live away from home during this difficult time has helped me a lot mentally and emotionally. Bach Wen is situated in a beautiful rural area that feels a bit like home from home, and although I miss my family, I no longer carry the fear or guilt of carrying the virus home to them. The owners at Bach Wen have been nothing but generous and helpful during this very difficult time.”
Ffion, a nurse who is also staying at Bach Wen said: “The Ciando scheme has been fantastic. The accommodation has been given to us completely free of charge by such lovely generous people.”
- Tyn Lon on Anglesey
Sue Kennedy converted a former B&B in Moelfre into a beautiful four-bedroom holiday cottage which has been virtually fully booked since she started taking bookings in May 2019. The cottage is now accommodating three ITU nurses. Sue said: “It seemed criminal to have an empty property whilst there was a need and such a worthy cause. Our family was already isolating due to our own vulnerabilities, so we had been unable to help or volunteer for NHS. The Ciando scheme seemed a good alternative. I hope it will give key workers some peace and a stress-free environment where all they need to worry about is caring for themselves, getting enough rest and not endangering the lives of close family.”
Courtney, one of the ITU nurses staying at Tyn Lon said:
“I have been staying here for three weeks now. I felt the need to isolate because I still live at home with my parents and have three younger siblings. No matter how hard I tried to isolate in my own room, they’d always come in wondering why they hadn’t seen me all day. I just wanted to keep my family safe, and to achieve that I needed to move out. It’s such a relief to be able to do my job without the fear of bringing the virus home to my family.”
- Y Ddol near Harlech
Y Ddol is a luxury holiday cottage near Harlech, with beautiful sea views and a hot tub in the garden. Its owners, Louise and Gwion Llwyd, run Dioni Holiday Cottages and are working closely with Menter Môn to coordinate available accommodation for the Ciando scheme.
They said: “When Menter Môn got in touch we knew immediately that we wanted to help. As a holiday cottage agency based in North Wales, we already had systems in place and bags of experience in handling and allocating people who are looking for accommodation. We wanted to include our own holiday cottage property in the scheme, and we’re delighted that we were able to help Lucy find somewhere to self-isolate.
Lucy, the GP receptionist staying at Y Ddol, said:
“Having somewhere to safe stay has really helped in what has been such a stressful situation. Louise and Gwion have been fantastic, what they are doing is helping so many keyworkers out there to carry on with their job roles without exposing their loved ones to risk. It’s great to see the community coming together in such a scary time for everyone.”
- Hen Dyrpeg on Anglesey
Gareth Evans Jones is a retired paediatrician who grew up in Blaenau Ffestiniog. He wanted to do something positive to help during the coronavirus crisis. He said: “I’m retired and too old to go back to work for the NHS myself, so the idea of having a keyworker stay in my holiday home seemed like the ideal way to help. I was delighted to be able to house a young worker who had been living with her grandparents, I’m just so pleased to have found a way to help.”
Jasmine, the key worker staying at Hen Dyrpeg said: “I cannot thank Gareth enough for his generosity. I have settled in and he has always been there at the end of the phone for me. Working as a key worker and living with family who were in the vulnerable category made me very anxious. Although it’s hard to be apart, I know this is for the best for everyone’s health and well-being. I could not have protected my family and continued to look after our communities without the help of Ciando and Gareth’s generosity.”
The Ciando project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government. It is also part funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), Gwynedd Council and the Isle of Anglesey Charitable Trust.