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Organisation praised for work ‘transforming’ the lives of young people

Cllr Delyth Jones, Nicky Hodge, and Cllr Arwel Roberts

An organisation has been praised for its work to “transform” the lives of young people in Denbighshire.

Denbighshire County councillors Delyth Jones and Arwel Roberts, of Plaid Cymru, were impressed with what they saw when they visited The Willow Collective, in Rhyl, and were given a tour of its wood mill.

The community interest company, co-founded by Nicky Hodge, 48, was established in 2021 and focuses on innovation and regeneration, building skills, wellbeing, community development and holistic education.

The organisation’s mill, where it creates wooden products for sale, generates an income which is ploughed into supporting its community benefit objectives.

It is also used to provide up-skilling opportunities, training and work experience.

Team members have the opportunity to develop their skills in business development, yard management, product design, sales, as well as order processing and fulfilment.

Cllr Arwel Roberts said: “The Willow Collective has touched the lives of countless young people, helping them to transform their lives for the better.

“It’s important that the Willow Collective receives the support it needs so it can continue to help young people well into the future.

“Here they see the good, as well as the potential in those that others have written off.”

Cllr Delyth Jones, who is the leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Denbighshire County Council, said: “At Plaid Cymru we are ambitious for our communities and here at the Willow Collective we have a fantastic example of community spirit in action.

“They make an invaluable contribution to the lives of young people locally.

“Far too many young people locally and all across Wales are held back from fulfilling their true potential through lack of opportunities and lack of support.

“Not only does The Willow Collective offer support and guidance for young people, but it offers them the opportunity to learn new skills and help them build the confidence they need to move towards a positive future.

“I’m very grateful for the work they do in the community and for the invitation to come down to hear about the organisation and all of the different things it has got going on.”

Nicky said: “All of the individuals we have here, whether they’re referred from a specialist school, or they come from just off the street, or from another local organisation, when they arrive here they leave what might be going on in their lives at the gate

“We’ve helped a lot of young people into college with pathways onto things like construction.

“We have connections with lots of organisations including local businesses that we can partner with to facilitate opportunities for young people.

“We’ve worked with young people who have challenging behaviour for years. We’re now doing more work with neurodiverse individuals.

“For these young people, once they finish school and they’re at home, they don’t get any help or support. There’s nothing out there for them whatsoever.

“We started running these evening sessions with three or four people and within six weeks that turned into 30.

“A lot of those coming are autistic, and these sessions allow them to be themselves. A lot of what we do is soft skills-based. It’s about building relationships.”