• Pen Y Dre Staff

To mark its centenary charity Save the Children has returned to its roots in Merthyr to work an art project with pupils from Pen-y-Dre High School which will be exhibited in an event in the Senedd on Wednesday 3July.
The project involved asking pupils to create a hundred self-portraits illustrating what they thought every child needs to grow up happy in Wales. Each wrote their comments on a piece of jigsaw to help the charity build the bigger picture of early childhood and to identify which pieces are missing in enabling children to thrive.
The charity was founded in May 1919 by two sisters from Shropshire, Eglantyne Jebb and Dorothy Buxton. Eglantyne Jebb went on to write the Declaration of the Rights of the Child which led to the creation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.
Save the Children’s work in Wales began in the mining communities of Merthyr during the Great Depression of the 1930s supplying free meals and clothing to the poorest families. Under the umbrella of the Quaker Settlement it founded one of the first open-air nurseries in the communities of Dowlais in 1933 and then in Brynmawr in 1934 to free parents to find employment and help children develop their social and life skills during their crucial early years. The charity also provided free milk to schools in South Wales several years before this became government policy.
In recent years Save the Children has worked with schools, families and partners in communities in Merthyr to try and close the gaps in outcomes of children living in poverty compared to their better off peers. In his role as the charity’s ambassador the Aberbargoed-born Hollywood actor Luke Evans visited Troedyrhiw Primary school in 2015 to engage in the charity’s award-winning Families and Schools Together programme
Pen-y-Dre High School Artist in Residence Student Support Adam Griffiths said: “The students have used how Save the Children supported families in their communities in the 1930s as a springboard to create an arts installation piece marking ‘100 years of work’. They have created this artwork with an eye on the continual work that needs to be done to support them and all future generations of Merthyr Tydfil families.
“We as educators, politicians as adults are fortunate and honoured to be the ones who can help our children have the childhoods they deserve and foster for them a lifetime in which, to quote the Penydre School motto can ‘aspire, achieve and believe’.”
Year 9 student, Asha Beynon who helped oversee the art project said: “Our artwork reminds adults that they were once children and it reminds teachers, politicians, social workers and educators that if they wish to improve the lives of young people they must once more listen to the voice of their inner child.”
At the Senedd event Save the Children will be calling on the Welsh Government to show political lead in breaking the links between poverty and education by investing in the early years and keeping an eye on the bigger picture to ensure no child falls behind.
Attending and speaking at the event will be Dawn Bowden AM, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney: “The scourge of childhood poverty still affects too many young people. This project has allowed children of Pen-Y-Dre school to express their views in a creative way and to highlight how we can all help to improve their lives. I congratulate them on their fantastic efforts”.  
Louise Davies, Head of Save the Children in Wales concluded: “Today, there are over 200,000 children living in poverty in Wales and it is alarming to hear that the figure is increasing. Over a third of our youngest children are falling behind their better off peers before they even start school. Many of them may never catch up.
“As part of our centenary celebrations we returned to our roots in Merthyr to work on an art project with the pupils of Pen-y-Dre High School in the Guernos Estate. We asked them what they thought every child needed to grow up happy in Wales.  The inspirations that came out of their mouths is why we still work in Wales to this day.”

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