FROM ABERFAN TO THE CHRISTMAS TABLE
There are certain events that are etched into the consciousness of a nation, and the Aberfan tragedy is one of those for us in Wales. Thousands of tons of coal waste came crashing down onto a small village school, killing 116 children, 28 adults and ripping the heart out of a community. Like so many of the survivors, Gareth Davies, a child at Pantglas school on that fateful day, has certainly had to battle through life. A lot has happened since then (as he shares on our website), but speaking with him today it is clear that there is one great challenge he is still involved with…
Thanks for talking to us again Gareth. When we last spoke you had retired to Pembrokeshire – I guess you wanted a quiet life, but it hasn’t really worked out that way.
You could say that! I’d had enough of the rat race, commuting to London every week, and I just wanted to slow down and enjoy life. I was happy, self-sufficient and comfortable, but I quickly went through some major life changes. I was an atheist, but God just turned my life upside down and I find myself today as the head of a charity that works to support farmers.
Could you tell us about the charity and what you do?
Certainly. We’re called Tir Dewi and we offer confidential help and support to farmers. We’ve grown in the past few years from a local charity based in Dyfed, to working in four other counties, with over 60 staff and volunteers. We’ve supported over 200 farms with an endless combination of problems. The needs are massive out there.
Most of us don’t know much about farming, apart from the little we hear on the news – could you explain a little more about the problems you’re seeing?
The easiest way to explain what’s happening to farmers is to ask people to think of the first lockdown. It was so tough on the general public – loneliness, uncertainty, people losing their jobs and businesses, mental health problems – all real problems, but these are issues that farmers have been dealing with for years. People say that farming is in crisis, but it’s farmers who are in crisis. So many work long hours in isolation, there are real uncertainties with Brexit and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a living – a pint of water these days is worth more than a pint of milk in our shops.
Many farmers and their families are struggling, with deaths through accidents at work being 18 times higher in the farming sector compared to other industrial work. Every week a farmer takes his own life in this country and the pressures are immense. There is such a need, a huge challenge, but we simply try to help by listening, providing support, and bringing agencies together to help those in need.
So why and how did you get involved in this work?
I guess it comes down to what happened to me. I was not looking for God, I didn’t even believe in him. To be honest it was an unwelcome experience at the time. I realised I’d been ignoring God all my life and that I’d lived by my own rules, but that God would forgive me and accept me. I saw that Jesus had died for me and I turned and accepted God’s unconditional forgiveness. It completely changed me as a person.
That is why I’m involved in the charity; I feel God has given me a mission and a joy. I would never have been motivated to do this before I became a Christian, but because I’ve received so much love, I want to love others. Tir Dewi was established by Christians but as the charity has grown, many have joined the team who are not. And the support we offer is available to anyone and doesn’t involve going to church or anything like that. In my personal life it feels as if God is opening door after door to make the work a success and to help hundreds of people.
Thanks for sharing your story, we certainly wish you the very best. To finish, if you could have one wish this Christmas, what would it be?
There are so many things! I guess one thing I’d wish for is for people to value farmers. Whilst people are tucking into their Christmas dinner this year, I wish people would think of where that food has come from – the meat, veg and fruit, and realise the great value and worth that farming and farmers brings to this country.
0800 121 4722
Read more about Gareth on our website here