A man from West Wales has gone from being made redundant during the pandemic to presenting his own radio show.
Now, 34-year-old Tom Dyer has now won an Inspire! award for making extraordinary progress in learning Welsh.
“When Covid came along and I was made redundant, I decided to move back from Cardiff to Haverfordwest to help my sister homeschool my niece. I thought Covid would blow over,” says Tom.
He turned the pandemic into an opportunity to try something new, and has this year been awarded the Starting Out – Welsh Beginner Award at the Inspire! Awards for his commitment to learning Welsh.
Tom’s sister was a keyworker, so he quickly took over the reins of the homeschooling. During online lessons, he was busy thinking what he could do next.
He had spent more than seven years working for Tenovus – first as a legal adviser and then as the lead for the ‘Activate Your Life’ programme which uses the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help anyone affected by cancer.
“My sister and I decided to release short videos on Facebook to help people cope in lockdown.
“I wanted to use the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help people get through lockdown. It’s all about finding your values, accepting what you can’t change but committing to who you want to be now and in the future.”
From Monday to Thursday, a new video would drop at lunchtime with a singalong music item on a Friday evening and the duo soon attracted the attention of Pure West Radio.
“We got in touch to tell them about our Facebook item, and they offered us a show. We both started presenting early breakfast which was brilliant fun.”
Tom has now been presenting a show for two years on a freelance basis. At the very beginning, the station asked him if he would consider learning Welsh as part of a fast-track programme with Dysgu Cymraeg Sir Benfro.
Dysgu Cymraeg Sir Benfro -Learn Welsh Pembrokeshire is run by Pembrokeshire County Council on behalf of the National Centre for Learning Welsh.
“This is what got me started learning Welsh but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” says Tom. “I’ve basically done four years’ worth of learning in two so it’s quite intense.
“Luckily, my girlfriend Helen is first language Welsh. It’s good to be able to have conversations in Welsh with someone outside of lessons.”
Tom passed the first level ‘Mynediad’ with flying colours and more recently passed his ‘Sylfaen’ level meaning he can advance to ‘Canolradd’ in September. And he always tries to incorporate Welsh phrases and culture into his radio show:
“I always try to weave little phrases into the show. We greet people in English and Welsh, and I do a 10-minute item called ‘Phrase of the Week’. I like to play Welsh music too and celebrate days that promote the Welsh language like Diwrnod Shwmae, Welsh Music Day and St David’s Day.
Tom encourages his listeners to learn Welsh by awarding ‘Gold Star of the Week’ for the best pronunciation.
He has also been keeping a video diary so he can share his progress and encourage others to learn and is committed to – and enthusiastic about – his own learning.
“I am definitely someone who grasps opportunities. I guess I find a way to say yes. That was really important for me, having worked with a cancer charity and with people who have their mortality staring them in the face. I’m reminded, every day to seize life.
“In many ways, Covid created opportunities for me. I was lucky that I didn’t lose anyone, or that anyone close to me was very unwell, but I don’t think I’d be learning Welsh if I hadn’t been made redundant.”
Tomos Hopkins, Welsh tutor at Dysgu Cymraeg Sir Benfro, says:
“Tom has an enthusiasm for the Welsh language which is incredibly infectious. And he’s now bringing it to a new audience with his radio show which is a massive benefit to the language.”
The Inspire! Awards are part of Adult Learners’ Week, which this year took place from 17- 23 October. In-person taster courses and online sessions ran throughout October and during Adult Learners’ Week, with advice and information given locally to inspire people across Wales to keep learning throughout their lives – from gaining formal qualifications or learning at work to joining online sessions at home or learning something new for fun.
Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language, said: “Congratulations to the Inspire! Award winners and nominees. Each and every one has demonstrated incredible commitment to learning and overcome significant personal challenges to get to where they are today. The Inspire! Awards remind us that it’s never too late to learn something new, and that learning can pave the way for second chances – to start a new journey, to gain recognised qualifications, or to discover a new passion. The dedication of our Inspire! Award winners to never stop learning sets an example for us all, and their stories deserve to be shared and celebrated.”
David Hagendyk, Director for Wales at Learning and Work Institute said: “Every year, as we celebrate the Inspire! Awards, we’re reminded of the true value of learning throughout our lives. It isn’t just about qualifications and certificates – learning has the power to boost confidence and mental wellbeing, to arm you with the skills you need to find a new job, to feel confident to support your children and grandchildren at school or to help you feel part of a community.
“A huge well done to all of this year’s winners. Their commitment to learning is not only incredibly inspiring, but it has also helped to change their lives for the better. In sharing their stories, we hope we can inspire others to give it a go and try something new."
For personalised advice on your own learning options and support available, get in touch with Working Wales on 0800 028 4844 or search www.workingwales.gov.wales.