Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

First Burberry grants handed out

Jessica Lewis
Jessica Lewis says she has always wanted to become a lorry driver

Brass bands, sporting projects and a potential swimming star are all among the recipients of money donated by the owners of a closed factory.

A total of 1.5m will be handed out by the Rhondda Trust which was set up after the closure of the Burberry plant in Treorchy, south Wales in March 2007.

The sum will be distributed by the trust over the next 10 years to help communities hit by the closure.

The grants were handed out in a ceremony in Treorchy on Friday.

The fashion giant agreed to give 150,000 every year for the next decade to the community after it shut the factory last March with 300 job losses.

The fund is open to individuals and organisations in the area and the trust said it was looking to fund new projects that would make a lasting difference to the area.

Rhondda Trust Award recipients
Upper Rhondda Brass Band - 4,200 to run music workshops for children
Providence Chapel Ystrad - 2,500 to run outdoor learning courses aimed at 18-21 age group
Dylan's Den - 15,000 to provide out of school care in Treorchy area
Treherbert Patchwork Quilting - 600 for tutor fees for the craft group
Friends of Tonypandy Community College - 29,232 for delivery of training courses including plumbing, construction and horticulture
Matthew Stoneman - 1,000 for a wood turning course and tools
Natasha Gobey - 1,500 for training fees and equipment to begin career as a coach and professional golfer
Claire Tutton - 750 for training, competitions and swim suits to help her become a professional swimmer
Source: Rhondda Trust

Nineteen organisations and 24 individuals have benefitted from the first round of grants which total 328,330.86, including some former Burberry workers.

Jessica Lewis, who used to work at the factory will be receiving a grant of 1,275 for fees towards a class 1 lorry driving course and a tachography course.

She said: "I am thankful to everyone who have pushed Burberry to give us what they have given us.

"I am really chuffed to get this award. I have always wanted to be a lorry driver.

"I have got one half of my lorry driving but I couldn't afford to do everything. This is going to make it so much better, hopefully I will pass it and get my dream job."

Another former employee Stephen Jones is getting 1,587 to help him work for a mobile machine mechanic business.

The trust, made up of local MP Chris Bryant, Rhondda AM Leighton Andrew, Mervyn Burnett, from the GMB union, a solicitor and two former Burberry workers, first met in December 2007 to discuss its aims.

Mr Bryant said the year's delay in making the grants available was due to setting up the charity and working through 1m worth of grant applications.

"Burberry had taken so much out of the Rhondda we wanted them to put something back in," he said.

"We decided we would give some money to individuals so they can train in a new job but also to organisations which can provide young people better opportunities and older people education and better training.

"We really want a youngster growing up in the Rhondda to get the same opportunity as a child growing up in Chelsea."

The money was secured after the GMB Union led a campaign at the time of the closure.

Production of the company's polo shirts was transferred to China.

The decision sparked a wave of protests winning the support of celebrities including Sir Tom Jones, Rhys Ifans and Emma Thompson.

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