A GROUP of friends who have encouraged openness about mental health will be taking on a hitchhiking challenge to raise funds for free support at their drop-in centre.

Two months after opening a café and drop-in centre on Dew Street, Haverfordwest, the Get The Boys A Lift team are returning to their annual hitchhiking rat race challenge.

The friends behind the community interest company have taken part in the challenge since 2017, based on the idea of talking to people they have never met for help.

GTBAL founder Gareth Owens described the week-long challenge as “daunting” to begin with, but said it could be surprising how generous people were after being told about the challenge.

“In year one we slept in a tent in a ditch on Anglesey,” he said. “But sometimes spare bedrooms are offered as well as a lift – it’s like staying at a guesthouse.”

The route this year starts in Haverfordwest, before heading to Cardiff, Land’s End, Dover, Edinburgh and Caernarfon.

In past years, GTBAL has raised more than £12,000 for charities through the rat race and selling clothing, but this year they are fundraising to support the free drop-in sessions at the GTBAL café.

Since the café opened at the start of March, it has had a regular stream of customers who have seen it as their new morning coffee stop.

But it also provides support services in a casual, no-pressure setting for people with mental health issues or other worries, without the need for referrals.

“This is somewhere to come if you need support with an aspect of your life. What we say is if you don’t look after all the little things going on, then they might make a big difference. It’s about early conversations,” Gareth added.

GTBAL has also recently decided to make sure all the cotton it uses to make its clothing comes from an organic source.

“We want to make sure we are sustainable in terms of our clothing,” said Gareth.

“Like everything we are trying to do, it just helps.”