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."