2013 winners

Read below to find out more about the groups we supported in 2013 and how our funding helped with their projects and activities.

Educational institution award 

In 2013 we awarded a total of £70,000 to three educational institutions.  Read on to find out more about the support given to local students.

Newman University

Newman University draws its students from some of the most educationally deprived areas of the West Midlands, however a three-year grant from the Foundation means that ten undergraduate students who would otherwise have been unable to fund degree-level study can now do so, with the help of a bursary. The funding is a huge support in terms of living and course material costs for these students who are often trying to juggle studying for a degree with family and work commitments.

Amanda Elliott, development officer at Newman University, said: "At Newman, we have a strong track record of widening participation rates among students with academic ability from non-traditional backgrounds.

"Providing financial support is part of this approach and we're delighted that the National Express Foundation grants will help ten of our students achieve their dreams."

South Essex College of Further and Higher Education

In 2012 South Essex College secured a three year grant of £10,000 per year and in 2013 they secured an additional £20,000 over two years. The original grant is focussed on supporting the younger student demographic; whereas this latest grant is being used to support students aged 19+. The college felt that there is an under-representation of adults in Higher Education, which is why they want to use this grant to help this particular group. The three college campuses are all serviced by the c2c rail line which is the main source of transportation for the students.

Walsall College

The college is surrounded by areas that are amongst the 10% most deprived areas in the country. Many of its students had never travelled outside of the Walsall area and restrictions on funding limited the amount of financial help that the college is able to offer students for educational trips. With help from the two year £20,000 Foundation grant the college has established the 'Go Further with National Express Award' which is providing 470 students with the opportunity to access support for educational trips, travel to higher education open days and interviews, and travel to engage in community volunteering opportunities.

Gail Houghton, Student Finance and Support Coordinator at Walsall College, said: "It has been an amazing fund and has enabled students to travel extensively. This has included Southerndown Beach in Wales which is shown in the picture above from one of our Art and Design students, Edinburgh and to Luton Airport for a trip to Berlin. These trips would not have happened without the support from National Express."

Community award 

In 2013 we awarded £35,000 to ten community groups, helping almost 2,000 young people.

Changing Our Lives, West Bromwich

Changing Our Lives 'Young Voices Network' is made up of over 500 young people aged 8-25 with a range of disabilities including autism, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, sensory impairments and mental health needs. They identified community safety as an issue, with many of them being bullied because they have a disability and feeling unsafe when out in the community.

A National Express Foundation grant of £2,500 helped the group deliver seven 'Safe & Sound' community safety workshops for nearly 180 young people, age 8-25 across schools in Sandwell and Wolverhampton. Sessions enabled young people with disabilities and their non-disabled peers to work together to identify what stops them feeling safe in their community and helped provide them with the tools, through role play, to help them cope in these situations. Workshops were facilitated by a local actress to create discussion and develop role plays and Police Community Support Officers were in attendance in an advisory role to share ideas and strategies with the young people.

From a wider point of view Changing Our Lives will scoop up the key issues that we have heard from the young people and feed these in at a strategic level. Part of the workshops recorded young people making pledges that were filmed to form a series of short statements they will be shared both locally and nationally. Gemma Caffrey, a member of the Changing Our Lives team who is a young woman with a learning disability will be supported to develop the footage by interviewing strategic leads about community safety and asking them to pledge their commitment to say what they will do about the issues highlighted by the young people.

Balsall Heath Children Action Team Support, Birmingham

The Balsall Heath area of Sparkbrook has some of the highest rates of deprivation. Families with disabled children or children with additional needs have few opportunities to access services, leading to isolation and high levels of stress. A grant of £2,500 has helped Balsall Heath CATS set up and sustain a youth group called Top Cats, bringing together disabled and able bodied 10-21 year olds. The group runs twice a month in and out of term time, helping members and their families to embrace differences, form friendships and offer each other positive peer support.

Voluntary Action Coventry

Unemployment, boredom and lack of motivation have all been identified as key issues that some young people are facing today. Voluntary Action Coventry is a registered charity that is trying to tackle this and with help from the Foundation, set up a new youth volunteering group called VSquad.

The VSquad project provides young people who are not in employment or education with a way of getting involved with voluntary projects and an opportunity to gain new skills. Foundation funding means that volunteers can even enrol in a programme to obtain a formal qualification through the ASDAN Community Volunteering Programme. Members are all from different backgrounds and communities in Coventry but they all have the same aim; to make positive contributions in their city by working with local organisations, schools, churches and youth clubs by taking on challenges that they may not have been able to complete due to local council funding cuts.

Becci Snape from Voluntary Action Coventry said: "VSquad is a fantastic way for young people to volunteer. We have a whole range of exciting projects, and I would encourage anyone who is not in work to join us."

Lee Chapel North Helping Hands, Basildon

With very little for young people to do in the Basildon area there were problems with anti-social behaviour, drug taking/dealing and theft from the local shops. Lee Chapel was formed by a small group of residents who recognised the need for young people to be engaged in diversionary activities and so they set up Lee Chapel North Helping Hands. The Foundation awarded £5,000 to fund job clubs which provided local young people with advice on CV writing and job applications, improving their communication skills and building confidence.

John McKay, Chair of Lee Chapel North Helping Hands said: "Thank you to National Express for this award. It is heartening to know there are companies who care as much as we do about our community. Lee Chapel North has the highest number of 16-24 year olds who are unemployed in Basildon and this money is a lifeline for our voluntary work - it will help us help more local kids into work."

Olio Youth Hub, Darlaston

Established in January 2012, the Olio Youth Hub is based in an area of the West Midlands known to have high rates of unemployment, youth crime and anti-social behaviour.

Since Olio started running a youth group, there has been a noticeable reduction in anti-social behaviour in the area. The Foundation funding has allowed the group to expand the level of activities on offer by providing funding for equipment to run specific projects, one  of which was a garden project.

Youngsters from across the local community were able to work together to transform an overgrown yard into a brilliant play area with an Olio motif flower bed that they can continue to look after themselves.

New skills were learnt and new friendships formed, helping to promote community cohesion and family learning.

Sandra Adams, chairman of Olio Youth Hub, said: "The funding helped us turn a fly-tipped derelict yard into a community garden, created by young people for young people, and they will have total control over what to grow and what equipment to install."

Councillor Doug James, Walsall, said: "Olio has got one of the most diverse community activity programmes in the area and it's vital that we bring in new money. It is a special thanks to National Express Foundation for letting us have this opportunity."

Disability Resource Centre, Birmingham

DRC was established to empower disabled people to take control of their own lives and support their transition from the margins of society into the heart of mainstream social and economic activity.

A Foundation grant of £5,000 provided funding for 40 new disability awareness workshops entitled 'A Day In My Shoes', delivered by young disabled people who talk candidly about the prejudice and stigma to able and non-able bodied people.

The workshops help give them a voice with the aim of increasing awareness of disability, improving understanding, breaking down barriers and dispelling myths and fears around disability and disability issues. Danielle Brown MBE, Paralympic gold medallist visited the centre on behalf of National Express Foundation, sitting in on one of the workshops and providing further advice and feedback for future sessions.

Theatre Royal Stratford East

Theatre Royal Stratford East is a registered charity which uses participation in the arts to promote education and help young people develop confidence and communication skills, especially those experiencing social and economic exclusion.

Two projects were supported with a £5,000 grant from the Foundation. A Young Volunteers scheme provided 27 youngsters with training and work experience with the TRSE, where they learned about communication and interpersonal skills, office IT skills, health and safety, customer care and child protection/safeguarding. Those who are taking part in work experience can also register to take part in further activities when TRSE need extra help.  The second project was a Poets Platform which consisted of a series of creative workshops looking at the structure of poetry, language and voice work, helping to increase young poets' confidence and aspirations. During the six months from April to September 2013 the youngsters were able to perform to over 600 people at events in their local communities, and it was clear to see that the workshops we helped to fund really did make a difference.

Jan Sharkey-Dodds from Theatre Royal Stratford East, said: "National Express Foundation enabled us to offer 27 young people the opportunity to come here and work as volunteers in the theatre, just removing all those barriers and getting them involved. Now they have all gone on to do amazing, wonderful things."

B'3 Foundation, London

Based in East London, the B'3 Foundation used a grant of £2,500 to deliver a six week personal development programme. The programme encourages disadvantaged 16-21 year olds to self evaluate past, present and future life choices, examine personal and societal views of themselves, and helps increase their motivation to obtain access to education and employment. The delivery of a creative and informal education programme, through medium such as music, drama and visual art, has engaged those who have previously been difficult to reach.

Segun 'Segge Dan' Fayase, Founder of the B'3 Foundation, said: "B'3 Foundation is delighted to have received support from National Express and looks forward to helping young people identify their dreams and working towards them."

Sport 4 Life UK, Birmingham

Further to the grant that they secured in 2012, Sport 4 Life were awarded a further £2,500 in 2013 which is being used to deliver more sports-themed educational programmes.

The programme consists of 30 weekly sessions for children aged 8-11, 30 weekly sessions for males aged 12-16 and 60 extra-curricular, school based sessions for both males and females aged 8-11. It has also given five significantly disadvantaged young people, including those not in education, employment or who are ex-offenders aged 16-25 the opportunity to gain skills, experience and qualifications by completing a volunteering placement on the project. Sport 4 Life were delighted when National Express Group CEO Dean Finch took the time to visit and see one of the sessions being delivered.

East London Community Sports Association, London

The West Ham area suffered during the London riots of 2011 and ELCSA is determined to provide young people with the opportunity to focus on sport as an outlet and way of developing themselves. Dedicated to the development of key partnerships in the local community, the group used the £2,500 grant to facilitate a youth rugby programme at Memorial Park, giving local 8-16 year olds the opportunity to play, have fun, forge new friendships and potentially create sporting pathways.

Barrie Challingsworth, Chair of the East London Community Sports Association, said: "This funding will be used to work with local schools and develop opportunities for junior rugby in the London Borough of Newham."

South East and Central Essex Mind Ltd, Southend

South East and Central Essex Mind deliver mental health services across South East and Central Essex. Its aim is to strive for a society that promotes and protects good mental well being for all, and which treats people with experience of mental distress fairly, positively and with respect.

A £2,500 grant has helped to fund a sessional youth counsellor that delivers confidential sessions for students in local schools, as well as facilitating other activities including ‘friendship groups’, youth focus groups and community diversity events. The sessions and activities help students cope more effectively in their local community.

Subjects covered in the sessions include body image, sexuality, educational attainment, mental health, exercise and food, passions in life, life goals, parents and family members, substance misuse, lack of motivation, teenage pregnancy, disability, young carers, peer pressure and stress.

The project works in partnership with local schools in Southend-on-Sea and supports disadvantaged young people who are experiencing difficulties either within school or at home because they feel excluded from their community.

Sutton Coldfield YMCA, Birmingham

Sutton Coldfield YMCA supports disadvantaged local people by providing youth and play activities designed to inspire engagement and increase personal and social development skills. It stimulates and challenges its members in an environment that enables them to take responsibility and find a sense of achievement.

A £2,500 grant supported the development of the YMCA’s Stockland Green community hub, from which a programme of youth activity is now being delivered.

The objective of the youth programme is to identify and work with local young people who are at risk of or who are involved in gangs, reduce anti-social behaviour and crime, promote community cohesion, identify young people who may be excluded from or not attending school and refer them to different projects, target and engage young people in to diversionary activities, and promote alcohol and drug awareness amongst young people in the area.

Urban Devotion Birmingham

Urban Devotion Birmingham is a resident initiated charity committed to engaging young people and children in activities and provisions that enable them to be the best that they can be and to contribute to the development and cohesion of their local community.

A £2,500 Foundation grant has been used to support a weekly after school youth group for local children in the Key Stage 2 age group so that they have a safe and helpful environment.

The youth group sessions include play and craft activities and a quiet area for homework, reading and online research which may not otherwise be provided at home due to circumstances within their families.

The group has also introduced extra youth work sessions which are being delivered in the local community to further develop engagement opportunities.

Safeline, Warwick

Safeline supports victims of rape and sexual abuse by offering therapeutic and non-clinical support to people aged 11 years upwards. It has recently diversified to include prevention of child sexual exploitation, abuse, violence and crime affecting young people in Warwickshire aged between 12 and 16 years.

Unfortunately Safeline were unable to use their £2,500 grant during 2014, however they intend to use it during 2015 to support the delivery of the Safeline Project in an identified area of Birmingham or Coventry and will involve 12 disadvantaged young people who are at risk of, or have been subjected to sexual abuse, criminal activity, domestic violence or who have shown inappropriate conduct towards others.

Workshop sessions will take place weekly, over an eight week period, and will cover subjects such as internet safety, avoiding sexual exploitation, bullying, anger management, drug abuse, binge drinking, being an ethical bystander, gang culture and positive relationships and attitudes.

Those involved will be encouraged to develop a keeping safe campaign which will include artwork statistics and a presentation to parents at the end of the project. They will also have the opportunity to achieve accredited ASDAN awards in sports and fitness or expressive arts