Written by on 6th September 2021

An Abercynon heritage and conservation project which uses gardening and nature as a way of improving people’s employability skills and wellbeing, is appealing for votes in order to be crowned National Lottery Project of the Year.
The Green Valley Conservation and Heritage project in Abercynon, Rhondda Cynon Taff, beat off stiff competition from more than 1500 organisations to reach the public voting stage in this year’s National Lottery Awards, which celebrate the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.
There are 17 shortlisted finalists from across the UK, who will compete in a four-week public vote to be named the inaugural National Lottery Project of the Year. Winners will receive a £3,000 cash prize for their project and an iconic National Lottery Awards trophy.
The Green Valley Conservation and Heritage project is helping people from the former Welsh mining village of Abercynon in the Rhondda valley to improve their employability skills and wellbeing through gardening and by connecting them with nature.
Three years ago, the Cynon Valley Organic Adventures site, now home to the Green Valley Conservation and Heritage project, was just a derelict wasteland. Today, thanks to the support of £20,000 in National Lottery funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the outstanding efforts of many volunteers, it has been transformed into a community garden with allotment spaces which grow food for their foodbank, a café, a summer school and even a green gym. They also provide outdoor activities and programmes for disengaged youths and work closely with autistic young people and anyone experiencing mental health issues.
The project has forged wide-ranging links with community groups, autistic support networks, job centres and schools, and accepts social prescription referrals from GP surgeries. The emphasis is on harnessing the benefits of nature to improve wellbeing and employability.
Janis Werrett, the Director of Cynon Valley Organic Adventures, who realised the potential of the space and started the project, says that it has not only transformed the space, but people’s lives too.
Janis says: “We are thrilled that our project has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Heritage category of the National Lottery Awards.
I’ve seen massive changes in children and young people being outdoors, to the point that they don’t recognise the person that they used to be. After spending years in school and being excluded from the mainstream because of their lack of academic skills, when they come here they realise that they do have skills. I see people growing and watch all those little changes in them that they might not see in themselves.
None of this would have been possible without the support of National Lottery funding and the help of our dedicated volunteers who have worked tirelessly to restore and protect this valuable resource for their community. To win this award would be a huge thank you to the dedication of everyone who made this project possible.”
Jonathan Tuchner, from the National Lottery, added: “In these challenging times that we still find ourselves in, we see so many examples of inspirational work throughout our communities, driven by these very projects. It’s thanks to National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes, that brilliant projects like these, are possible.  
“The Green Valley Conservation and Heritage project are doing some incredible work in their local community and they thoroughly deserve to be in the finals of the National Lottery Awards Project of the Year 2021. With your support, they could be a winner.”
To vote for the Green Valley Conservation and Heritage project, please follow the link on the National Lottery Good Causes website here.  Or simply use the Twitter hashtag #NLAGreenValley on twitter. Voting runs from 9am on 6th September until 5pm on 4th October.

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