A POSTMISTRESS who hasn't had a day off in two years has received royal recognition for her work in rural communities during the coronavirus pandemic.

Postmistress Sonya Cary was named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her work tackling loneliness and malnutrition in the elderly in Pontrilas, between Hereford and Abergavenny, but also 22 nearby villages.

Ms Cary, who runs the Post Office, shop, café, gym and weekly lunch club, has been awarded the British Empire Medal.

The branch is run with a team of volunteers alongside a social enterprise as part of the charity C.A.R.E. CIC. It aims to help older residents feel valued and involved in the community. Post Office profits are then used to deliver the services.


"It feels surreal to receive this honour," she said.

"The community will be bowled over by the news. I have not had a day off in two years as there has been so much that I want to do.

"The lockdown was stressful. We had to adapt what we could offer as the need was even greater to stop isolation and malnutrition. Many elderly men are not good at looking after themselves.

"We serve 23 villages in Herefordshire and during the pandemic we were also getting requests from over the border in Wales for lunch and prescription deliveries."

The Post Office said during the Covid-19 pandemic the Pontrilas branch has operated services seven days a week, and provided a wide variety of services.


It said she supported the community in a number of ways during lockdown:

  • Arranged deliveries of groceries to the vulnerable
  • Provided Sunday lunches to isolated people
  • Launched a telephone wellness service for people to ring if they want to have a chat
  • Created activity packs which are distributed to the local community on a weekly basis
  • Hosted a weekly quiz with the local community
  • Collecting and delivering prescriptions to people who are shielding
  • The gym provided Zoom sessions to help keep people active and motivated

Nick Read, chief executive at the Post Office, said: “Sonya works tirelessly for the people who visit her Post Office and there is an amazing range of activities that she organises to enrich the lives of elderly people in this very rural area of Herefordshire for people who would otherwise suffer from loneliness.

"An annual Christmas lunch has been a wonderful highlight of the calendar for pensioners for the past few years. The regular activities that Sonya has organised have helped to really lift the spirits of elderly people.

"With the Coronanvirus pandemic Sonya has successfully adapted how she can help vulnerable members of the community who are shielding or nervous about venturing out.”