2012 winners

In the Foundation's first year we awarded £30,000 to community groups and £40,000 to educational institutions. Through this funding we helped over 700 young people during 2012.

This is a summary of projects delivered as a result of the 2012 funding, which includes six community groups and four educational institutions.

Three Faiths Forum (3FF)

Increasing inner-city community cohesion is one of the primary aims of the Foundation and 3FF delivered an innovative educational project to tackle just this. Foundation funding enabled them to match up three pairs of faith schools. The aim was to bring together Catholic and Islamic schools from the same neighbourhood to take part in group activities, helping the pupils gain greater understanding of each others' culture and faith. In most cases, the pupils would not otherwise get the opportunity to meet because of their different backgrounds.

The first twinning saw pupils aged 8-10 from Al Birr Islamic Primary and St.Vincent's Catholic schools in Birmingham meeting up for a day of activities at a neutral venue. The activities helped them identify common ground around the theme of 'Hope for the World'. During follow-up days the pupils visited each others' schools to broaden their understanding of the different cultures.

The second twinning was between St. Bonaventure's Catholic Boys School and Lantern of Knowledge Muslim Boys Secondary School in East London. This brought together young people aged 13-14 to participate in a drama workshop on crime and to design workshops to deliver to neighbouring schools. 

Stephen Shashoua, Director of 3FF, said: "National Express Foundation's vital donation enabled connections between faith schools, creating safe enjoyable spaces for children of diverse beliefs to build stronger communities."

Aston Sports and Community Club CIC

With cutbacks in local government funding, the ability for councils to provide youth services has been reduced, leaving gaps in the provision. Aston Sports and Community Club sought to fill the gap by launching a series of sporting activities at four venues in the area.

The activities included multi-sports and youth club meetings and saw regular attendance from over 148 young people.

Matt Kendal, Director at Aston Sports and Community Club, said: "It's been a hard couple of years in Aston for youth provision, with youth clubs and services being cut, but our award from National Express Foundation helped us revive some of the hard fought youth work we had in the past, and to build some new work to engage more young people as they enter their mid-teens."

Handsworth Wood Youth Group

Handsworth Wood is a suburban area in North Birmingham which has a diverse ethnic mix of residents. As with many areas in the West Midlands, unemployment is relatively high and there are few activities to keep young people occupied. Handsworth Wood Youth Group wanted to do something to provide more activities in the area. The Foundation funding helped the group to set up weekly activities to encourage exercise and provide social and personal skills development. The group delivered weekly five-a-side football sessions and organised a number of one-off events which attracted more people from the local community. Community engagement is key to the group and as such they also got involved with hedge cutting to tackle overgrown bushes in the area, having gained the appropriate permissions from the city council.

Jamshed Mohammed, Group Leader at Handsworth Wood Youth Group, said: "This award provided our local youths with an opportunity to take part in regular activities, meet new people and build a sense of community. It allowed us to run events which help keep the youngsters engaged and away from trouble."

One Aim Mix

Gangs continue to have a big impact on young people living in urban areas, and like many other cities, Birmingham has a number of gangs who have clearly defined territories. A culture of fear exists in some areas, and young people are easily influenced and drawn into a web of anti-social behaviour and crime.

Tackling the issues of gang culture head on was the purpose of a project run by One Aim Mix, an inner-city youth charity. One Aim ran a series of drama workshops through which 25 young participants aged between 15-24 explored some challenging issues faced in urban areas and the reasons why people join gangs.

To recruit people to the project, One Aim organised an 'X Factor' style audition called 'Time to Shine', which attracted over 60 young people who all had a chance to perform in front of a judging panel. The event not only provided recruits for the gang awareness programme but also built the pool of talent which One Aim can draw on for other youth programmes it runs.

Brian Read, Centre Manager for One Aim Mix, said: "The support has served a great positive injection and powerful contribution into the local community. The funding has been an incredible addition to our organisation and the local young people that have benefitted from our work."

Sport 4 Life UK

More Than Sport is a personal development through sport programme for children aged 7-11 in the Ladywood ward of Birmingham. It promotes cross-community cohesion and understanding, and has improved behaviour and attitudes amongst 240 children.

Sessions consisted of fun sports coaching activities, drills, and games themed around educational lessons on the concepts of respect, friendship, community and team work. 54% of those that attended the sessions said their confidence had improved, 100% said their health had improved, and 95% reported an improvement in behaviour at school.

James Forrest, Manager of Sport 4 Life UK, said: "We're very grateful for the generous support from the National Express Foundation. We've used the funding to change the lives of underprivileged children and young people in Birmingham through the power of sport."

Urban Cycles

This Birmingham based group encourages cycling among young people from inner-city communities.

Foundation funding provided the bikes and equipment needed to set up an elite competition team. Following the success of Great Britain in the Olympics, more young people took an interest in cycling as a sport and the creation of the competition team provided a goal for members of Urban Cycles to aspire to. The new bikes helped to really engage young people to focus their energy in something positive.

One of the things the Foundation aims to achieve with all of the groups it supports is to build an ongoing relationship and seek other ways to work together. Urban Cycles developed an exciting relationship with the NEG bus business, National Express West Midlands, which was aimed at improving road safety. Urban Cycles worked with the UK bus training school to create a training module which increases awareness of the issues cyclists face.

Andi Smith, Director at Urban Cycles, said: "Funding provided by the National Express Foundation has enabled dozens of inner-city young people to radically improve their lives, raise their aspirations and be the best that they can be. We are profoundly grateful."

South & City College, Birmingham

Bursaries worth £20,000 were awarded to 20 students to help fund living costs while they stay in education. Over the last two years the funding has helped with travel, books and computer equipment along with general living costs associated with being in education.

As part of a partnership agreement between National Express and South & City College we also donated a coach which was used to take students on trips around the UK. The partnership has also seen the business provide mentors and work placements to the students in exchange for expert and specialist training to enable them to take advantage of apprenticeship and employment opportunities within the company.

Mike Hopkins, Principal at South & City College, said: "National Express Foundation reflects everything South & City College Birmingham believes in; helping young people advance their education and improve their futures. We are incredibly grateful for this support which will allow us to give young people in financial difficulty bursaries to help them stay in further education and help them get the jobs and careers they want."

South Essex College of Further & Higher Education

Three years of bursary funding worth £30,000 was given to South Essex College which has campuses in Basildon, Southend and Grays. The funding was split to provide £500 to 13 Further Education students, targeting adult students studying Access to Higher Education Diplomas and Foundation Diplomas in Art and Design, £500 for six Higher Education students, and £100 special awards for five Further Education students a year for the next three years.

Angela O'Donoghue, Principal and Chief Executive of South Essex College, said: "Every year the college receives a huge number of applications for discretionary bursaries which highlights the financial barriers that students often face. Expenses can be a big concern, particularly for older learners returning to education, so it's fantastic that this funding will allow us to support three times the number of students in Further Education who otherwise may not be able to afford it."

BMET College (formerly known as Stourbridge College)

Household incomes in Stourbridge are well below average with nearly a third of families living on less than £10,000 per annum. £20,000 awarded over two years has helped 20 students on resource intensive courses such as construction, arts and sports to pay for various different outlays such as travel, stationary, books, sports kit, tools, work placement uniforms and computer equipment. These are all items that they may have otherwise struggled to afford due to low family income.

Gill Coldicott, Assistant Principal for Students and Recruitment, said: "Financial assistance for some students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, is vital to ensuring young people continue on to further and higher education. The National Express Foundation money this year has helped 20 students in providing financial help for their course materials and some of the trips which are essential to their student but which they otherwise probably couldn't afford."

University of Birmingham

Eight students from some of the most deprived areas of the West Midlands benefitted from bursaries worth £30,000 over three years. The funding was used towards A2B scholarships for which the university selected two nursing students, five economics students and one business management student - all of whom have written to the Foundation to personally thank us for our help and support. The success of the A2B scholarship scheme is evident given that 74% of recipients achieved a first class or an upper second class honours degree in 2010-11.

Gail Rothnie, Head of Outreach at the University of Birmingham, said: "The University of Birmingham is delighted to be working with the National Express Foundation. The Access to Birmingham (A2B) scholarship gift will be of enormous benefit to the students who receive it. Most A2B students are the first person in their family to go to university and their parents are often not able to provide any financial support to students whilst they are studying."