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Muriel Rogers, 83, was born and bred in Fochrhiw, now part of Caerphilly County Borough where she grew up in a solid Welsh-speaking family. Her grandparents, parents, brother, uncles and aunties all spoke Welsh in the home and in the nearby chapel.
There were also a number of Welsh speaking families living in the village who had moved there from rural areas to work in the local colliery. Her school holidays were spent at a family-owned small-holding in Y Bont, Ceredigion where her Welsh language skills were further strengthened. Evidently, the Welsh language played an important part in Muriel’s formative years.
As time passed, Muriel left school to work in the local Co-op. She also married and raised two sons but, for various reasons, not through the Welsh language. Muriel’s circle of Welsh speakers began to diminish as older relatives passed away, including her beloved mother who only ever spoke in Welsh to Muriel, while others moved out of the village to find work.
Eventually she was the only one of the original Welsh speakers left in the village and so she now had to live her life through the English language. She did her best to keep her Welsh language skills alive by attending evening classes and watching S4C. But she wasn’t having the natural conversations that she had as a child.
Living alone in Fochrhiw, someone suggested she should join Age Cymru’s Friend In Need service whereby the charity pairs an older person living alone with a volunteer for a weekly telephone chat. Muriel agreed and was paired with an undergraduate from Swansea called Kadun Rees who also spoke Welsh.
At last Muriel could now have a real conversation in her mother tongue. Muriel and Kadun hit it off immediately sharing stories and jokes in Welsh.
Kadun, 22, who was educated in Welsh throughout his school years before heading to university in England, also benefitted from the calls. There were few if any opportunities to speak Welsh at university while no one in his family would speak Welsh to him so he too was worried about losing his Welsh language skills.
During their lively conversations they would often come up with different words for the same English word thereby enriching both of their vocabalries.
Muriel has now found a Welsh-speaking friend – something she hasn’t had since her mother passed away all those years ago. Kadun has become her Welsh-speaking link to the outside world and brought back so many wonderful memories of her Welsh speaking childhood.
“We laugh a lot, we enjoy each other’s company,” said Muriel.
“Age doesn’t come into it. I’m 83, Kadun’s 22, but we’ve become friends.”
Age Cymru’s chief executive Victoria Lloyd says: “There are lots of older people like Muriel living alone in Wales with little opportunity for conversation and friendship. So if you think you could become a Kadun and bring so much joy by linking up with an older person for a weekly telephone chat, in English or Welsh, please get in touch with our Friend In Need service on 029 20 43 1555 or visit www.agecymru.org.uk/befriender”.
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