Nominated by: Adult Education, Rhondda Cynon Taff

Seventy-year-old Gwyn David attends Gilfach Goch Learning Curve in the town where he has lived for most of his life. Gwyn has moderate learning difficulties and a condition that affects one side of his body, causing difficulties with walking. Growing up he attended special schools and at the age of 19 he moved to Hensol Hospital, where he lived for more than twenty years.

He has painful memories of that time which left him ‘without a voice’. He says, “I didn’t like Hensol. I didn’t have any friends and spent a lot of my time in bed in a dark room. It wasn’t a nice time in my life. It was lonely. I was told when to eat, when to sleep, when to do anything. I was given drugs, needles in my body. I remember leaving - I felt free, I was shaking.”

Gwyn left Hensol in his late forties and now lives in supported housing. He’s been attending Gilfach Goch Day Centre four times a week and it has been a source of friendship and learning.

Eleanor Clift, daytime opportunities officer for RCT Council, has known Gwyn since he started attending Tonyrefail Day Centre 25 years ago. She said, “When Gwyn started coming to the day centre, he would sit in the corner, not speaking. It took a few years for him to gain confidence and now he’s one of the chattiest members here. Seeing what learning has done for him has been incredible.”

The group have visited St Fagans National Museum of History and took part in activities in the Senedd to mark 100 years of the Suffragette Movement. Maria Carroll, a tutor at Gartholwg Lifelong Learning Centre, joins the group once a week, she says, “The class practices literacy skills, learns about local history and takes part in community trips. Gwyn is lively, enthusiastic and someone who loves to hold a conversation. Despite being unable to read and write he has persisted in his learning to recognise letters and attempts to write, regardless of his disabilities.”

Gwyn says, “I am always trying to learn new skills. At present I can write my name and identify most letters. I am hoping I can continue learning how to write, especially as I can use these skills when I am representing Gilfach Goch in the Learning Curve Clients Committee. Not everybody has the chance to learn, I do, and I will keep learning.”

Gwyn is the oldest member of the group at the Day Centre, he says “I’m not retiring yet! I enjoy learning about new things, I like updating everyone with the latest news headlines every morning. We go bowling. I like going on trips on the bus. We do arts and crafts, make pizza, visit the beach. Learning has given me confidence, and a voice. I didn’t use to have one - now I’m being heard.”

Gwyn’s tutor, Maria says, “He loves a good debate and has steered many into a heated and well-informed discussion. His enthusiasm inspires others in the group to be more vocal. Gwyn is such a wonderful student to teach, despite many obstacles he has a joy of learning and loves education.”

“I love learning. Learning has given me confidence, and a voice. I didn’t used to have one. Now I’m being heard.”