First Choice Housing – granted £7,828 

Since 2010, First Choice Housing has been supporting homeless people, those with mental health disorders and asylum seekers living in and around the Swindon area. They focus on relieving poverty, hardship and distress amongst individuals facing adverse social conditions such as poor health and nutrition and low employability skills.

This grant will support First Choice Housing in running 15 sessions over the coming year on female empowerment, for women from Swindon’s African community. With unemployment rising and job markets freezing during lockdown, it was during this time that Winnie Oluoch, one of the organisation’s Trustees, recognised a need for support in this area. ‘Many of these women are migrants, with no family living nearby’ Winnie told us, ‘these courses will give them the chance to learn some of the skills required to take those first steps and move forward with their lives. At the same time it enables them to socialise with other women in a similar position, helping them to build a support network’. Through the sessions, these women will learn valuable IT skills and interview techniques that will improve their chances of finding employment, learn how to manage money and start a small business, and help them to develop important social skills. Women that have children are invited to bring them along as First Choice Housing will be running some small activities to keep the children occupied while mums attend the session. 

Click the link in the resources at the bottom of this page to learn more about the sessions and dates they are taking place. If you are interested in attending, please email info@firstchoicehousing.co.uk or telephone 07378253011.

Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service (SWA) – granted £5,000 

With a belief that ‘every person deserves the choice to live with dignity not dependence’, Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service has been supporting those experiencing domestic abuse and survivors, for 45 years. They deliver a host of services including:

• supporting 22 families in the charity’s purpose built complex of individual flats

• supporting around 70-80 victims of domestic abuse at any one time at home in their community 

• delivering educational programmes to schools on healthy relationships

• providing training to employers on how to identify domestic abuse and how to support their employees

• providing support to young people and children that have trauma as a result of witnessing and experiencing domestic abuse

‘We aim to support people at all stages of their experience’ said Emma Rawlings, Director at the charity. ‘We work closely with maternity clinics, fracture clinics and mental and sexual health departments at Swindon’s Great Western hospital to help reach those experiencing domestic abuse. We then support them in their individual journeys, right through to our Route 66 recovery programme which helps women to regain their independence and provides training on CV writing and interview techniques for those who need it’.

With lockdown came the closing of the charity’s Survivor shop, a main source of fundraising for the charity. This grant will enable it to continue providing support directly where it’s needed, to the 22 families staying in refuge and the 80 plus families supported in the community.

To donate to Swindon Domestic Abuse, visit their donation page at https://swadomesticabuse.org/get-involved/donate/.   

The Mechanics Institution Trust – granted £2,500 

Those of you that read our article Supporting Swindon’s community heroes back in August will remember The Mechanics Institution Trust, originally started to restore Swindon’s Mechanic’s Institute which provided a social space during the Victorian period. After we funded their successful summer youth project with another grant from the Oakfield Community Response Fund, we wanted to do more to help them get back on their feet.

One of the Trust’s main forms of income is from letting out its Central Community Centre in historic Emlyn Square, Swindon. Before lockdown it was rented out for pre-school sessions, corporate meetings and other community groups like lunch clubs and former railway worker meet-ups. ‘When we were forced to shut the doors, it removed one of the Trust’s main funding streams’, said Dr David Thackray, Chair of The Mechanic’s Institution Trust. ‘The Centre sits within the former railway village hospital in Swindon which was a big contributor to the social fabric of the time. Our hope is that we can reopen its doors again soon and enable it to become that social space once again’. 

This grant will support the Trust to do just that. It will go toward paying for additional cleaners, adding extra hygiene measures and making the centre COVID-safe.

If you’re a local business looking for meeting space or are looking for a community hall to hold a function in the area after lockdown and when it is safe to do so, why not consider the Trust’s Central Community Centre. For more information on available dates for meeting rooms or hall space, visit mechanics-trust.org.uk/centralcommunitycentre/