Latest Wiltshire Community Foundation coronavirus recovery grants announced

By Barrie Hudson - 6 October 2020

Charity

Elderly members of Swindon's Nepalese community and young people with behavioural problems are among the latest beneficiaries of a coronavirus fund.

  • SMASH mentors young people aged from 13 to 19

    SMASH mentors young people aged from 13 to 19

The SMASH Youth Project has been awarded £10,000 and the Nepalese Association of Wiltshire £4,100 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund. 

The fund has raised more than £1.1 million and distributed £925,000 through more than 200 grants to groups across Swindon and Wiltshire.

Part of the SMASH grant was funded by Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson’s own coronavirus fund with the community foundation

SMASH mentors young people aged from 13 to 19 who are struggling at home or school. 

Project director Moira Leitch said they often came from difficult family backgrounds, and added: “Most of the children that come to us are not able to cope with the demands of everyday life. 

"All children will be referred to us as a result of behaviour they have displayed - most of the behaviour is classed as socially unacceptable but there will be a reason for it and it is our role to help them understand themselves, like themselves and find some direction.”

SMASH counsellors work one-to-one with youngsters for an hour a week for up to six months, to help them focus on positive role models in their lives, discover their potential and guide them towards fulfilling it. 

As part of their development, young people are encouraged to talk about hobbies and activities they enjoy. Staff can then help connect them with clubs and groups so they can do more.

The group has lost £80,000 in funding which was directed elsewhere during the pandemic and has had to cut its staffing. 

The grant will go towards staff salaries. Counsellors have begun meeting up with young people after only having contact through wellbeing packs during the lockdown. They are having to find new ways of working:.

Ms Leitch said: “Our volunteers used to go to the home to pick the child up but now we have seen a huge increase in redundancies and domestic violence - this makes the homes too unpredictable and potentially volatile for our volunteers.”

The group is working with schools and Swindon Borough Council to set up drop-in centres where counsellors can meet the young people safely. 

Ms Leitch said: “When a child has a plan it’s amazing what short term focus can be achieved.”

The other grant recipient, the Nepalese Association of Wiltshire, works with hundreds of families from the 11,000-strong Nepalese population across the county but mostly in Swindon. 

The association will use its grant to pay for facemasks and hand sanitiser for low income families, particularly those who are elderly.

It has also been distributing food and organising Zoom meetings for people living on their own who are shielding.

Management committee member Bhawani Gurung said: “We are providing a translation service in Nepali language and the distribution of covid-19-related leaflets produced by Swindon Borough Council for our senior citizens.”

The group says its finances have been hit by a loss of income from group meetings, which stopped in March.

Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “We are hearing so many stories of groups who have struggled with funding due to lost fundraising opportunities and increased need. 

"We set up our fund to help these groups respond to the need on their doorstep and ensure that they are still around for the long term. 

"We are very thankful to the Police and Crime Commissioner for his support.”

People can donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or find out how to apply for a grant by visiting wiltshirecf.org.uk

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