2017 winners

Read below to find out more about the groups we supported in 2017 and how our funding helped with their projects and activities.

Educational institution award 

In 2017 we awarded two three-year annual bursaries of £10,000 to Coventry University and the University of Warwick. We also awarded a two-year annual bursary of £10,000 to Walsall College.

Coventry University

Coventry University is using bursary funding of £10,000 per year for three years to support ten male students undertaking a health-related degree such as nursing, operating department practice or occupational therapy.

2017/18 is the first academic year that the NHS and Health Education England stopped funding health related degree subjects which potentially impacted the number of people taking up study towards health-related professions.

The university is using Foundation bursary funding to support ten male students with £3,000 per year each as they recognise that men are already underrepresented in the health profession, particularly in nursing and occupational therapy.

Professor Rob S. James, Academic Dean for the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Coventry University, said:

“As chair of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences Athena SWAN committee I welcome all initiatives involving positive action that seek to address unequal gender representation in any subject discipline. The award of 10 bursaries from the National Express Foundation will help to encourage an increase in male students undertaking degrees in nursing, occupational therapy, and ODP, three disciplines in which males are under-represented. Many thanks to the National Express Foundation for their support.” 

University of Warwick

The University of Warwick is using Foundation bursary funding of £10,000 per year to support eight students with £1,250 each for three years. The university is also adding to the Foundation bursary funding an additional £750 each, meaning each student will receive £2,000 for three years.

The students supported through the Foundation bursary funding are from the university’s Multicultural Scholarship Programme (MSP), the Warwick Scholars’ Programme (WSP) and the Women in Engineering Scholars’ Programme (WIE).

Students in the MSP come from BME backgrounds and underrepresented ethnic groups in higher education and industry, namely; law, business and engineering.

Students in the WSP come through various outreach pathways from neighbourhoods that have consisted of low levels of university applications. The students are also usually the first in their family to apply to university.

The WIE programme seeks to address the gender imbalance in the engineering industry and those students generally have low income households. 

Professor Christopher Hughes, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) at the University of Warwick, said: 

“The University of Warwick is delighted to be working with the National Express Foundation. The awards are providing scholarship bursaries for gifted and talented undergraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds who might otherwise be deterred from going to University and not realising their full potential.”

Walsall College

Walsall College is using bursary funding of £10,000 per year for two years to support at least 20 students that are wheelchair bound or have mobility difficulties.

The Foundation funding is helping those that might not otherwise have been able to access off-site educational visits, higher education open days and interviews, or other travel opportunities outside of the Walsall area which might increase their confidence and employment opportunities as well as any community volunteering opportunities.

Rachel Davies, Head of Foundation Learning at Walsall College said:

“Walsall College prides itself on creating an inclusive environment and offering equal opportunities for all students, irrespective of their circumstances. We are delighted to be working with the National Express Foundation as the funding will help to support more students with disabilities to reach their full potential and follow their chosen career paths.”

Community award 

Read below to find out more about the groups we supported in 2017 and how our funding helped with their projects and activities.

Balsall Heath CATS, Birmingham

Balsall Heath CATS is a voluntary group set up to help local children and young people with disabilities and individual needs to be part of the local community and to provide support, play and development opportunities for their different potentials.

The Foundation funded the group’s previous projects in 2013, 2014 and 2016. In 2017 they used a £2,500 grant to continue their Live, Laugh and Learn project, which we started supporting the year before.

Live, Laugh and Learn helped young disabled people to explore the great outdoors and take part in music, arts, dance, drama and cooking workshops to raise their self­-esteem and promote inclusion through shared life and leisure experiences. It also provided young people with the opportunity to gain an Environmental Play Certificate, which involved them learning how to build shelters, basic fire craft and the use of tools by exploring the elements, making rope swings and hammocks.

With our support, the Live, Laugh and Learn project impacted on the health and wellbeing of over 60 local disabled young people aged 10-24 who might not have otherwise been able to experience those kinds of opportunities and activities.

The project was also heavily supported by and indirectly benefited 20 young volunteers who were in full-time education or apprenticeships, helping them to develop real life work skills and confidence, as well as giving them the opportunity to attend accredited training which can be included on their CVs when they move on to full-time employment. 

Beacon Evangelical Church - Club 3:16, Birmingham

Beacon Evangelical Church began as a union of three churches in Handsworth, Birmingham when they pooled their resources to meet the various needs of the local community. They have a large focus on youth and children’s activities where all are welcome, regardless of faith.

The group used a £2,500 grant to fund a new youth club, Club 3:16, with the aim of providing a safe, educational and fun environment for over 30 young people aged 13-21 in and around the Handsworth, Birmingham area.

Club 3:16 is fast becoming a hub to help young people to make good choices, build on skills, and create positive relationships within the community through various activities including workshops on graffiti art, music, breakdancing, arts, jewellery making, positive relationships (gangs) and education and careers advice.  

BME United Limited, Wolverhampton

BME United facilitates workshops, public meetings and smaller focus groups, ensuring good distribution of information and carrying out research and skills audits to identify any barriers to communities in linking and influencing public services.

A £2,500 grant was used to deliver a bespoke Youth Employment Skills (YES) programme, focused on skills and unemployment advice for nearly 50 16-24 year olds in Wolverhampton. The programme included one-to-one advice on CV writing, job searching, completing application forms, interview techniques, further training/education, and referrals to other established institutes.

The programme also encouraged volunteering within the local community to help the young people integrate into and improve their local community as well as giving them new skills.

Shiv Parekh, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at BME United Ltd, said:

“BME United Ltd was really pleased to receive a grant award from the National Express Foundation to help us make a difference in our local community. The grant helped us to deliver our Youth Employment Skills (YES) programme which involved young unemployed people of Wolverhampton between the ages of 16-24. The YES programme helped develop young people’s employability skills, supporting them to move forward and closer to getting back into the jobs market.” 

Cannon Street Memorial Baptists Church, Birmingham

Cannon Street Memorial Baptists Church provides opportunities for disadvantaged people in some of Birmingham’s most deprived areas to engage in a wide range of social, physical, recreational and educational activities to improve their health wellbeing, self-esteem, education and confidence.

A £5,000 grant supported the group’s Dads and Lads project, providing positive male role models for 25 disadvantaged boys and young men aged 12 to 18 who did not have a father figure or a positive male role model in their life.

The group used the funding to deliver regular activities where the youngsters were teamed up with a mature and responsible volunteer, who then acted as their father figure or surrogate ‘Dad’. Activities supported by our funding included camping weekends and weekly sports, arts and music workshops. 

Castle Vale Neighbourhood Partnership Board, Birmingham

Castle Vale Neighbourhood Partnership Board was set up in 2003 and comprises residents, partner and co-opted members. The group’s aim is to ensure the environmental, economic and social wellbeing of the neighbourhood and coordinate how local services, programmes and projects are delivered by the public, private, voluntary and community agencies in the surrounding area.

The group used a £2,500 grant to deliver an Inspire Bike workshop to educate 12 12-18 year olds and deter them from taking part in anti-social behaviour in the area. The local neighbourhood had experienced issues with youngsters using bikes to create a nuisance by holding up and intimidating cars, buses and taxis, or using them as a way to escape from incidents they’d been involved with.

The project helped to motivate and inspire these youngsters by building positive experiences and activities, helping them to break out of a cycle of poor and disruptive behaviour. The workshops educated the cohort on road safety, bicycle maintenance and handling activities.

At the end of the project each successful participant received a free bike linked to an initiative developed by the city council.

Ifor Jones, Neighbourhood Partnership Co-ordinator at Castle Vale Neighbourhood Partnership, said:

"The Castle Vale Neighbourhood Partnership Board was delighted to receive funding from the National Express Foundation for its Inspire Bike programme in 2017.

"Inspire Bike provided a fantastic opportunity for 12 young residents from Castle Vale to explore the positive benefits of cycling through a range of activities such as mountain biking, riding in a velodrome and on a BMX track, as well as acquire skills in a "customise my bike workshop".

"The programme was designed to work with young people who were active on their bikes but were also involved in anti-social behaviour or at risk of engaging with youngsters who were."

Disability Resource Centre, Birmingham

Disability Resource Centre is an organisation run by disabled people for disabled people to tackle discrimination and inequality. It empowers disabled people to take control of their own lives and become positive about their abilities and lifestyles, supporting them in seeking ways to reduce or remove disabling barriers which may otherwise prevent them from achieving their full potential.

The Foundation previously funded the group in 2013 and 2015. In 2017 the group used a £2,500 grant to deliver disability awareness and bullying workshops to schools and youth groups in the wider West Midlands including Coventry, Solihull and the Black Country. The workshops featured a resource book ‘Facing Up To Disability Bullying’ which Foundation funding has previously supported, and the workshops were delivered by the group’s training staff working alongside two young disabled volunteers.

Each workshop helped raise awareness about bullying and harassment of disabled people, especially at school, and improved understanding and empathy about the lives of disabled friends. 

Friends of Sycamore Adventure, Dudley

Friends of Sycamore Adventure is a group made up of parents and professionals with a common interest in providing a play setting for children in an area of significant deprivation in North Dudley. It aims to enhance childhood experiences of independent physical and emotional wellbeing.

A £2,500 grant supported the group’s Design and Build programme after a consultation with the children revealed that they would like new structures on the site, which they would like to help build.

30 children aged 8-19 engaged with the design, costing, and building of the new play structures, giving them new skills and a real sense of ownership. The new structures are now used by all children and young people who use the adventure playground site - and will be for years to come.

Keith Rogers, Play Service Manager at Friends of Sycamore Adventure, said:

“We were absolutely thrilled that the National Express Foundation awarded £2,500 towards our Design and Build programme at Sycamore Adventure Playground. We are based in an area of significant deprivation and for many of the children who attend, the adventure playground provides a haven and safe place for them.

“The programme saw local children design a new play structure on site - and with expert support the children helped build the new structure, providing them with something new to play on, of which they have ownership. It was an extremely rewarding programme for local children in Dudley.” 

Gospel Oak Community Centre, Birmingham

Gospel Oak Community Centre operates from St Michaels Church in the Hall Green area of Birmingham. The group works to promote the overall wellbeing, plus social and mental welfare of residents in the local area.

The Foundation supported the group in 2016 by funding a gardening and community clean-up project involving local young people. In 2017 the group used a £5,000 grant to fund a year-long youth club for 35 local teenagers aged 15-18 who were vulnerable to joining in with anti-social behaviour or crime. The activity was requested by police, who identified that Thursday evenings were a particularly problematic time where diversionary activities were needed.

The weekly youth club included cookery activities to cover basic techniques and skills, but also learning about more exotic ingredients and recipes. Sports activities included circuit training and yoga, as well as less played indoor sports like handball. At the end of the year the grant also supported a community open day in which the young people were able to showcase what they learned for the local community.

Hall Green Youth, Birmingham

Hall Green Youth is the culmination of four churches in the Hall Green area of Birmingham which aims to identify and meet the needs of local young people. It supports them with confidence building and promotes understanding between generations and different ethnic groups.

The Foundation supported the group in 2016 by providing funding towards the Just Us Girls group, providing a safe and and positive environment for 11-18 year olds to take part in activities such as arts, cooking, drama and team building workshops.

In 2017 the group used a £2,500 grant towards a new after school club and drop-in at Hall Green Secondary School. By holding it at the school the group established relationships with the young people in a familiar environment, then moved activities to a community hall in Hall Green from September - a venue that was on many young people’s journey home from school and also on a main bus route, making it easily accessible.

The after school club provided positive activities for the young people, with the first hour being a drop-in for up to 20 11-18 year olds who wanted to drop in on their way home from school, and the second hour delivering a structured programme of activities including arts, cooking, physical activity, drama and team building. 

Sarah Barnes of Hall Green Youth, said:

"We were delighted to have received a further grant from the National Express Foundation. We received a grant in 2016 to get our community girls group off the ground and have found the Foundation to be a very supportive funder. This latest grant enabled us to support even more young people in Hall Green."

Handsworth Carers Group, Birmingham

Handsworth Carers Group is a small voluntary multi-cultural organisation which aims to support unpaid carers of who are looking after a friend or a relative, who because of disability, illness or the effect of old age cannot manage at home without their help. The group helps to make sure carers’ unheard voices are heard and prevents their isolation in their local communities.

The Foundation supported the group in 2015 by funding a New Generation project which engaged young carers at risk of long-term unemployment by providing job clubs and pre-employment workshops which they may have otherwise been unable to access due to their carer responsibilities.

In 2017 a £2,500 grant funded a Helping Hand project along the same lines as New Generation. The project provided a range of activities and workshops for over 45 young people aged between 14-25 and involved buddy support, volunteers and sessional workers who offered a range of activities. The programme also included interview technique training, assistance with UCAS further education applications, and teamwork workshops to build skills and abilities. 

Handsworth Wood Youth Group, Birmingham

Handsworth Wood Youth Group was first launched with our help back in 2012. The group has since worked hard to engage young people in the Handsworth Wood area of Birmingham by providing various activities such as football, paintballing, archery, walks and fundraising initiatives to raise money on behalf of the group. They have also facilitated monthly talks involving local community speakers to help motivate local young people in the area.

In 2017 the group used a £2,500 grant for a monthly community street clean project to benefit the local area and also to expand the sporting activities on offer. Some of the funding covered monthly youth talks and open days at local mosques and community centres, inviting people of all faiths to come together and break down barriers whilst promoting community cohesion.

Jamshed Mohammed of Handsworth Wood Youth Group said:

"Thanks to the National Express Foundation funding it has really helped us to make a difference by enabling local youth to make positive changes in the community." 

Holding On Letting Go, Kent

Holding On Letting Go provides bereavement support for children and young people who are struggling to cope with the death of somebody very close to them.

The group is using a £5,000 grant over the course of two years (£2,500 in 2017 and £2,500 in 2018) to support the costs of art and music therapy sessions for circa 250 young people aged 6-16. The sessions include activities such as decorating bags, memory boxes, use of clay materials and CDs. 

Caroline Ford, Programme Manager at Holding On Letting Go, said:

“We were delighted that the National Express Foundation chose to support Holding On Letting Go for two years. The money was used to fund all of the materials needed for the art and music therapy sessions at our bereavement support weekends.

"These sessions give the children and young people the vital opportunity to share their feelings about their bereavement, helping them to hold onto their precious memories and let go of the grief, anger or sadness. This work is such an important part of our weekends, and we are very grateful to the National Express Foundation for funding it.”

Kids In Communication, Walsall and Wolverhampton

Kids In Communication is a youth led, social action project, supporting disengaged, vulnerable and emotionally challenged young people from some of the most deprived areas of Wolverhampton and Walsall. Their mission is to support young people in getting their voice heard.

A £5,000 grant supported the group’s Kicster’s Digital Citizenship Award which was designed in partnership with the Open College Network to recognise digital skills attained through attending the group’s Kicsters Clubs, which are then applied to the benefit of the local community.

£2,500 of the funding supported 30 young people in Wolverhampton, with the other £2,500 supporting 30 young people in Walsall.

Through teaching new skills in photography, digital citizenship, audio recording and editing, as well as the opportunity to use these new skills in a practical environment, 60 young people aged 8-18 were engaged in positive activities, raising their aspirations by being able to earn a certified award. The work undertaken on the project helped young people make new friends, boosted their confidence, improved mental wellbeing and reduced social isolation.

The group also used their digital graffiti wall, where young people used a digital spray can to capture feedback and the progression of learning, as well as mapped out ideas that prompted healthy debate about topics and concepts which were important to them. 

Rob Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Kids in Communication said:

​"​We were absolutely delighted to have been awarded a grant by the National Express Foundation to support our work with young people in Walsall and Wolverhampton. Our youth led Kicsters programme aims to improve the lives and raise the​​ skills​ of local young people.​ ​Support such as that offered by the National Express Foundation is valued by organisations working in the local communities.​"

Lee Chapel North Helping Hands Job Club, Basildon

Lee Chapel North Helping Hands Job Club was set up in 2013 to provide a place for young people who have difficulty in accessing technology to look for work, training or education.

The Foundation provided funding for the group in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and in 2016 we pledged to give the group £5,000 for three years. 

With the sale of the National Express Group c2c Rail business in 2017, we no longer invite applications from South Essex or East London groups as we are no longer a prominent public transport operator in that area, however we continued to uphold our pledge to Lee Chapel until the three-year award ended in 2018.

The group used the £5,000 annual grant to support local young people who needed to improve their English skills, or who used English as a second language. The support from Lee Chapel complements the existing activities but also helped to improve the member's self-esteem and confidence, enabling them to move on to searching, applying for and hopefully securing a job or means of further education. 

Let Us Play, Wolverhampton

Let Us Play is a small, registered charity set up by a group of parents to provide sports, arts and play activities and outings for children with special needs and disabilities. The children that access the group’s activities have special needs that vary from moderate learning disorders to disabilities that could be described as profound. Some members require 1:1 support during sessions which often makes them incredibly difficult for other groups to find the staff with the specialised experience required or adequate funding to support these children.

A £5,000 grant was used to help the group deliver a programme of activities to support over 270 young people aged 5-19. The programme, delivered over the course of the summer months, included activities such as gymnastics with splash swim, water polo and ball games, crafts, rounders, angling, pond dipping and orienteering, and a garden party with inflatables, team games and afternoon tea.

Claire McKen at Let Us Play, said:

“Let Us Play was absolutely thrilled with our £5,000 grant from the National Express Foundation. It enabled us to provide a varied summer programme of activities for children with special needs and disabilities in Wolverhampton.”

Olio Hub, Darlaston

Olio Hub was formed in 2012 as a direct result of public consultation in the Darlaston area of the West Midlands which identified that local young people did not have a facility or any structured out of school activities for them to join in with. The hub is now also used by other community groups which host their own activities on site for the wider community to enjoy.

The Foundation provided funding for the group in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and in 2016 pledged to give the group £5,000 for three years. This was due to the innovative way in which the group used our funding to continually deliver engagement activities for local young people.

The group used our annual £5,000 grant to further develop the activities available to young people in the Darlaston area, with some of the funding being used to purchase additional music instruments and music tutors and workshops which enhanced the learning and development of young people who used the existing facilities. The funding also helped to provide extra ‘Born to Perform’ activity sessions for even more young people who were previously unable to join due to limited availability of equipment. 

Our Place Community Hub, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham

Our Place is a Community Hub delivering advice and support services to children and families in Sutton Coldfield. Central to the group’s activities is a mentoring scheme reaching 18 local schools, providing 1-2-1 and group support to children on a weekly basis for up to 12 months.

The Foundation supported the group in 2016 by funding a ‘Protect Yourself - Respect Yourself’ course for primary school children (year 5 and 6 pupils). The project explored the issue of child sexual exploitation and the importance of body safety to help educate children on the issues and how to protect themselves against it.

In 2017 a £2,500 grant was used to deliver the project to circa 250 11-16 year olds, following on from the successful delivery of the project to primary school children. The 2017 theme focused on online safety and sexting with discussions surrounding self-esteem and healthy relationships. The aim of the resource was to educate adolescents on child sexual exploitation and grooming (including the signs and dangers) and to empower them to protect and respect themselves so that they are less likely to engage in risky behaviours. 

Radio Plus, Coventry

Radio Plus is a community radio station, run by a social enterprise (Coventry & Warwickshire Media Community Ltd) targeting content and activity at young people aged between 16-35. The group’s core aims are to help disengaged young people achieve their potential by providing training and volunteering opportunities, give a voice to voluntary and community organisations supporting the most vulnerable people and to raise the profile of local young musical talent.

A £5,000 grant supported the group’s Making Waves project which trained a group of 15-20 vulnerable young people aged 16-20 as Community Reporters. Young people were trained in community research, conducting vox pop interviews on the street, use of specialist recording equipment, editing software and studio equipment, and the production of live shows on the radio.

The young people were also given the chance to work alongside volunteer show presenters and spend time with other small businesses based at the local community media hub. 

Tim Coleman, Station Manager at Radio Plus, said:

“The National Express Foundation grant was a real boost for Radio Plus. It meant that we were able to launch a pilot project called Making Waves, which tested the best ways of engaging vulnerable young people as volunteers with Radio Plus and other groups. The project gave a number of vulnerable 16-20 year-olds the chance to train as Community Presenters and Reporters on a 6-month volunteer programme.“ 

Smethwick Youth and Community Centre, Smethwick

Smethwick Youth and Community Centre aims to support people on their steps to success through health, employment, learning and poverty reduction. They offer inclusive cultural, educational, recreational and social programmes and services.

A £2,500 grant was used to support the group’s numeracy and literacy classes for youths aged 11-19, helping to improve their skills and provide them with a better chance at accessing the jobs market, while also increasing their educational knowledge. 

Samaya Malik, Funding Officer at ​Smethwick Youth and Community Centre, said:

“We were very grateful to be a recipient of a grant from the National Express Foundation for our youth project. The grant enabled us to hold numeracy and literacy classes for our disadvantaged youths between the ages of 11 and 19 and who are still in education but also those youths who were not in education and were lacking in those areas,  helping them with better access to the jobs market, while also increasing their educational knowledge.”

Sport 4 Life UK, Birmingham

Sport 4 Life aims to create a better future for unemployed and socially excluded young people by improving their employability and key life skills. The group tackles the problem of youth unemployment, low educational attainment and social exclusion head on through their sports-themed personal development programmes.

The Foundation supported the group in 2015 by providing funding towards their FutureWise East project - focused on providing a personal development and employability programme to 18-24 year old NEETs, with a particular focus on ex-offenders and the long-term unemployed. We also supported the group in our first year (2012) by funding the group’s More Than Sport project - a personal development programme using sport activities for 7-11 year olds.

In 2017 a £5,000 grant was used to deliver an employability and personal development programme for 60 16-25 year old NEETS who studied a Level 1 and 2 qualification in Sports Leadership. The qualification provides young people the chance to develop their organisational, motivational and communication skills, helping them to mentor others and use leadership skills in a variety of settings within the local community. 

Jack Skinner, Business Development Manager at Sport 4 Life UK, said:

"We're really grateful for the National Express Foundation's continued support for our work. The funding helped towards our NEET programme in Sparkbrook, Birmingham, and provided NEET young people with the opportunity to progress into education, employment or training." 

St Basils, Birmingham

St Basils was established in 1972 and provides accommodation, advice and support to young people in crisis to help them move on and lead successful independent lives and prevent them from falling into the spiral of repeat homelessness and exclusion.

The Foundation supported St Basils in 2015 and 2016 by funding the charity’s accredited LifeSkills programme, enabling young people to develop key independent living skills such as budgeting and cooking and providing them with an opportunity to achieve an Open College Network Level 1 Award in Progression - an important step in enabling young people to return to education, and a real confidence booster in helping them realise that further education is an option for them.

In 2017 a £2,500 grant supported the charity’s drug and alcohol awareness sessions. Many of the young people that the charity works with have drug and alcohol problems which affects their mental health, their relationships with other people and therefore their ability to live within the local community. These sessions helped them gain a greater understanding of the impact of their behaviour and also contributed towards their LifeSkills modules - and therefore potentially a recognised qualification. 

Barrie Hodge, Head of Fundraising and Communications at St Basils, said:

“Sadly, as a coping mechanism for the many complex issues which come as a result of losing a home, some people turn to alcohol and drugs. If this cycle isn’t broken it can result in entrenched homelessness which can have a devastating impact on the person and their community. The money we received from the National Express Foundation allowed us to educate young people facing this problem and will make young lives better.” 

Tara Martins Community Project, Kent

Tara Martins Community Project helps homeless single people by offering free bed spaces in a night shelter as well as an opportunity to have a healthy evening meal and a shower, facilities to wash their clothes and have breakfast.

With our support through a £2,500 grant the group were able to expand the level of help on offer by engaging not only the street homeless, but unemployed vulnerable people aged 18-25 with underlying mental health and addiction problems. The funding supported the costs associated with a day training/activity centre where the group were able to provide local young people with the opportunity to learn skills and access training that enables them to get back into further education or jobs and live happy, healthy and independent lives.