2019 first-round winners

Read below to find out more about the groups and projects that we’re supporting with our first-round funding.

Educational institution award 

In our first-round bursary programme for 2019, we awarded two new bursaries of £10,000 per year to two educational institutions.

University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham are using a £10,000 annual grant for three years to create a new National Express scholarship for local students from the most financially disadvantaged backgrounds. This award, designed with the values of the National Express Foundation in mind, will widen access to both Higher Education and employment by actively supporting students through internships and work experience.

George Reeves, Development Executive at University of Birmingham, said

“We would like to thank the National Express Foundation for funding a new scholarship that will seek to overcome the barriers to both a university education and postgraduate employment, by supporting both living costs and a short-term internship or period of work experience. This programme will be a unique and much-needed award that will help to provide a rigorous education and meaningful employment opportunities to young people in the West Midlands region, thus changing lives and promoting social mobility.”

Halesowen College

Halesowen College, based in the Black Country, will use an award of £20,000 over two years to support around 100 students completing level one and two programmes. The bursaries will be made to allow recipients to participate in activities that will increase their awareness of and progression to higher education. The wider Dudley area, from which the college draw a large percentage of their student numbers, has one of the lowest progression rates to higher education in the country.

John Murray, Director of Organisational Development said:

“This funding is specifically geared to address sections of our student body that current funding streams miss. It will give level one and two students the opportunity to gain a better understanding of career opportunities and HE pathways. We are committed to giving all our students the best possible chance for their future and trust that they will ultimately boost the prosperity of the Black Country. National Express share that vision and we are grateful for their support”

Community award 

Read below to find out more about the groups and projects that we’re supporting with our second-round funding.

Sport 4 Life, Birmingham

Sport 4 Life UK will use a grant of £10,000 to fund 72 young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) to complete the Level 1 Sports Leaders UK qualification. The Birmingham based charity will also provide wrap-around one-to-one mentoring support for each young person completing the qualification in order for them to prepare and progress into education, employment or training.

Jack Skinner, Business Development Officer for Sport 4 Life said:

"We're delighted that the National Express Foundation will support our work this year. The funding will allow us to deliver accredited qualifications to disadvantaged and unemployed young people in Birmingham, which will improve their aspirations and employability prospects."


Kids in Communication, Walsall

Kids in Communication will use a grant of £20,000 to fund their Open College Network accredited ‘Kicsters Award’ programme for young people. Through free digital youth clubs delivered across targeted areas of deprivation within Walsall, the charity provides safe spaces where members can be supported to learn new digital skills and also receive accredited recognition for their achievements. New for 2019, the charity will be using the Kic Zone trailer, a portable TV studio, gaming zone and a radio studio to deliver engaging and developmental activities for young people ages 10 - 18.

Rob Smith, CEO for Kids in Communication said:

“Being awarded this grant is fantastic news for KIC and the young people we support. The grant will be used to deliver a programme of free digital and community based activities in Walsall after school and during school holidays together with a range of accredited awards which will help to raise aspirations and educational standards amongst the young people. The foundation grant will ensure that we can continue to make a difference in the community.”

Thank you to everyone at National Express who has made this possible.”

Heaven’s Kitchen, Dudley

Heaven’s Kitchen, a food bank and soup kitchen in Dudley, will use a grant of £20,000 to establish the Lighthouse Café Project. The project will establish a community café that works with young offenders and those at risk of offending, providing them with opportunities to volunteer and work towards formal qualifications in the food and customer service industries.

Joe Hayes from Heaven’s Kitchen said:

"We are absolutely delighted at the news we have been awarded this grant to begin The Lighthouse Community Cafe to support young offenders find opportunities for positive futures."

Birmingham & Solihull Women's Aid

Birmingham & Solihull Women's Aid will use a grant of £10,000 to fund the ‘You First’ programme. The programme aims to build resilience, wellbeing and life chances of young women aged 16-24 affected by or at risk from domestic and sexual violence. Through targeted activities delivered within the young women’s refuge and also in the community, the charity will nurture confidence and self esteem by allowing young women to take safe risks, ultimately contributing to the development of greater independence and aspirations.

Sally Dennis, Operations Manager from Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid said:

“We are delighted to have been awarded a grant from the Foundation to support our work with young women in our refuge and the community. Many of the young women have low self-esteem as a result of experiences of abuse, have been told they were worthless, and not received the help they needed.  With this funding, they will take part in a range of activities and sessions designed to help them find a sense of self, purpose and position by exploring what matters to them and what they want for their future.”

Let Us Play, Wolverhampton

Let Us Play will use a grant of £5,000 to run a summer programme of sport, craft and leisure activities for the local community and the older members of their existing youth group who have special needs and disabilities (SEND). The charity operates in Wolverhampton within an area of high social deprivation and provides a vital link to developmental activities for young people often isolated in society.  

Claire McKen from Let Us Play said:

“Let Us Play couldn’t be more grateful to the National Express Foundation for supporting our summer play-scheme. Having a disability can be so very socially isolating if you are bussed out of area to attend the most appropriate school for your needs. The long summer break can adversely affect the fitness, self-esteem, confidence and self-progression of children who simply do not leave their house for the duration. With the support of our generous funders we will ensure that the amazing children we have the pleasure of working with will have a fun, fit and engaging summer.”

Balsall Heath CATS, Birmingham

Balsall Heath CATS will use a £10,000 award to fund their ‘Express Yourself’ programme. Based in Birmingham, CATS work with families from diverse backgrounds, isolated by disabilities, who often face multiple barriers to accessing support and services. The group aims to engage 70 young people in arts, cooking, sport, leisure activities whilst also providing educational trips and experience designed to upskill and support members to use digital technology and social media.

Nazreen Bi, Development Coordinator of Balsall Heath CATS said:

“The money from National Express will help us to run regular activities on Saturdays and school holidays for young people with disabilities. They will be supported by our junior helpers and volunteers who will help them have fun, be more independent and access more activities than they currently can. Our project ‘Express Yourself’ will celebrate everyone’s individuality and we are excited to share our experiences over this year through social media. We are very grateful for the support from National Express Foundation, who are helping to provide life changing experiences for young people who need it most.”

Longford Short Football, Coventry

Longford Short Football, based in Coventry, will use a £10,000 grant to fund their ‘Grab a Football, Not a Knife’ campaign over two years. The voluntary group uses unique, small portable football ‘stadiums’ to take the game to as many areas as possible. The group experienced tragedy as two former members were victims of knife crime in 2018. As a result, the group deliver targeted activities using sport to foster cultural cohesion and reductions in anti social behaviour.

Jim Sweeney, Project Coordinator for Longford Short Football said:

"As a voluntary group, coaching for the past 30 years within Coventry, our ‘Short Football’ project is completely overwhelmed to have been awarded this amazing National Express Foundation Grant of £10,000. This generous grant is twice the amount we have ever been awarded and will enable us to take our ‘Grab a Football, Not a Knife’ anti-knife campaign not just across the West Midlands, but also UK wide for the next two years. This is a cause close to our hearts after we suffered the tragic loss of two former players through knife crime in 2018. We hope that by raising awareness of the danger of carrying a knife we can positively impact the lives of many young people.”

D.I.M.E Studios CIC, Birmingham

D.I.M.E Studios CIC will use a grant of £2,500 to work with young people from inner city Birmingham to create and perform music at the studio, tackling challenges of antisocial behaviour in the process. The youth led group aims to introduce fellow young people to industry professional producers and mentors in order for them to develop their skills, whilst also making inroads to the industry.

Reuben Edwards, project leader, explained;

“As a youth group, we believe we can help others we share experiences with, dealing with gang culture, identity and violence. By giving young people the opportunity to create something we believe this will give them the opportunity to learn and grow. With this grant I believe we can achieve this and help young people see opportunities for themselves and develop new skills and confidence"

Young Women’s Trust, Kent

The Young Women’s Trust will be using an award of £10,000 to facilitate the ‘Work it Out’ programme for 50 disadvantaged young women across Kent. The scheme provides women with one to one employability coaching as well as personalised CV and job application support in order to build their transferable skills, raise confidence levels, increase their aspirations and ultimately gain employment.

Suzi Copland, Director of Services, said: “Young Women’s Trust is delighted to be supported by the National Express Foundation to provide employment and confidence-boosting coaching sessions and professional feedback on CVs to young women in Kent."

The Stonehouse Gang, Birmingham

The Stonehouse Gang will be using a grant of £5,000 to fund activities for local young people tackling issues such as gang culture, knife crime and sexual health whilst also developing local ‘community champions’. The voluntary organisation are based in Birmingham, serving the Stonehouse estate, Weoley Castle, Quinton and Bartley Green, all defined areas of high deprivation where the support offered is vital for local young people.

Rob Green, Leader at The Stonehouse Gang said: "Five thousand pounds for a small charity such as ours makes a massive difference. It allows us to carry on our work with young people who have no voice in society and nowhere else to go. The Stonehouse Gang were one of the first to lose funding through third sector funding cuts at the beginning of austerity and every year we face an uphill battle to remain sustainable.

“Funding from the foundation will help us to combat issues affecting our young people, making sure their club remains open, empowering, supporting and being a positive influence through one of the most pressured and stressful times of their lives"

Engage Trust, Wolverhampton

Engage Trust will be using a grant of £2,500 to fund their self esteem programme in schools. The Wolverhampton based organisation will engage 30 young people with positive strategies to both combat mental health issues and raise aspirations.

Matt Foster, Director at Engage Trust, said: “Engage Trust UK are delighted that the National Express Foundation have chosen to support us. The funding will enable us to work alongside young people, increasing their self-worth and confidence and developing a more positive outlook to their circumstances. Engage are truly determined to make a lasting difference to young people and your award will help us to support those who are struggling with low self-esteem. We are extremely grateful that the National Express Foundation are enabling

us to support young people in this way as we work towards our vision of seeing transformed young people fulfil their potential.”

Woodies Youth Centre, Kent

Woodies Youth Centre, based in Chatham, Kent, will be using a grant of £10,000 to build community kitchen facilities at their central youth centre and drop in location. The new facility will allow new workshops and drop in events which will provide developmental opportunities and essential life skills to young people. With improved facilities, the organisation is excited to offer regular cooking programming to young people who will be able to work towards accredited ASDAN and food hygiene qualifications.

Roy Smith, Operations Manager, said “We are extremely grateful to National Express for their support to the WREC project. This funding makes it possible for us to deliver a greater range of activities in what is fast becoming a popular and provision for young people in Medway. Cookery skills are an important life skill and I am confident this will be a huge benefit to many young people.”

Sport Legacy Foundation, Birmingham

The Sport Legacy Foundation will be using a grant of £10,000 to deliver a new sports coaching and mentoring programme to 100 teenagers across Birmingham. The foundation aims to build strong cross community links by engaging young people with larger networks, specifically within BAME communities and uniting people through sport.

Jane Power, Chief Executive, said “Sport Legacy Foundation is delighted to be working with National Express Foundation for the first time!  We believe this new partnership will meet the objectives of both organisations and match our ethos of offering young people opportunities to expand their horizons through travel, sport and education”

Sandwell Community Hubs

Sandwell Community Hubs will be using a grant of £20,000 to address long-standing unemployment, boredom and lack of motivation amongst young people in their area. The award will allow the group to introduce a sustainable employment network aimed at creating new job opportunities for those young people aged 18-24 who are affected by high levels of deprivation.

Tonia Flannagan, the Chair of the Sandwell Community Hubs said, "We are absolutely delighted with the award which will enhance and enable us to expand our current work supporting young people to gain the necessary confidence, courage, willingness, skills and competencies to take up employment or entrepreneurship in the borough. We look forward to sharing with everyone the great outcomes emerging from this project in the near future".

ConnectED Partnership, Wolverhampton

ConnectEd Partnership will use a grant of £10,000 from the National Express Foundation to deliver a project of disability sports provision and awareness training for young people aged 15-18 years across Wolverhampton.

Wendy Mann from ConnectED Partnership said: “The funding will enable ConnectEd Partnership to set up 4 new community hubs that will provide ongoing activities for young people with behavioural issues and Special Educational Needs (SEND). ‘Wolverhampton’s SEND Active Hubs’ will include weekly specialist activities e.g. ‘Zone’ football/netball and boccia, at 4 Special schools. It is anticipated that 60-80 young people will benefit directly during the initial project. Training workshops will be held for parents and young people that will upskill them to be able to deliver inclusive sport sessions.”

Smethwick Youth & Community Centre

Smethwick Youth & Community Centre will use a grant of £10,000 to provide both educational and recreational activities for young people in their community. The area suffers from high unemployment and new migrants to the area often struggle to become engaged with the services provided. With this funding, the organisation will provide educational sessions with qualified staff to tackle homework as well as literacy and numeracy with young people, raising aspirations for participants to succeed at school and go on to further education. Linked to this, the group will also provide sporting sessions, encouraging positive participation within the diverse community.

Luke Darbey, Community Centre Manager, said: "We are so grateful for the National Express Foundation funding. Our young people are over the moon that our football sessions will be continuing and our homework club students are eternally grateful that the support they are receiving can continue to help them better manage their time and improve their grades. As a result, we look forward to continuing our relationship with the National Express foundation and hope our partnership with the foundation will go on to produce great results for the young people within the Sandwell borough."