Swindon Samaritans - Granted £3,500 

For nearly 60 years a dedicated team of volunteers at the Swindon and District Samaritans has been there to lend an ear. They provide a safe place to help those experiencing distress and in need of emotional support, some of whom may be considering taking their own lives. ‘We allow people to be themselves’ Maggie Gill the charity’s Listening and Publicity Volunteer, told us. ‘People know themselves better than anyone else, so rather than advise, we take a non-judgemental approach, listening to the worries running through their mind and helping to talk things through.’

During lockdowns, when more people than ever need support, the charity has been forced to stop meeting people at its centre in Swindon, halt its outreach programme and stop fundraising. The charity has been able to adapt and has found new ways to reach people such as calling cards given to food banks and placed in council funded food boxes. This £3,500 grant will go toward providing headsets and whiteboards so that volunteers can continue to be trained. It will also go toward increasing cleaning hours and the purchasing of more cleaning equipment. ‘Looking after our volunteers is crucial as they listen to our callers’ said Maggie. ‘This grant is key to enable us to continue our training and continue to support those people in Swindon and across the UK that need someone to talk to’.

If you or anyone you know needs support, Samaritans can be reached any time, day or night on 116 123. Calls are free from landlines and mobiles. With fundraising down, the Samaritans are in vital need of donations. You can support them by clicking here and giving what you can.

Al-Habib Islamic and Cultural centre – Granted £5,000

For 10 years Swindon’s Al-Habib Islamic and Cultural centre has provided a space that brings the local community together. As well as religious services for the local muslim community, it holds sessions to help school children learn about the Islamic faith. ‘Children read a lot of things in the media’, said Abdul Latif, Trustee for the centre. ‘But they’re also bold enough to ask questions that others might not, so it’s nice that we can answer them and teach them about our religion.’ 

As a non-profit, the centre also hires out it’s space for a small fee to cover running costs. Accommodating 250-350 people it hosts:

• police office training

• weekly gatherings for older people, craft, hobby and youth groups

• weddings, birthday and celebrations

• interfaith meetings

…and more. ‘It’s nice for young people to have somewhere to socialise safely’ said Abdul, ‘and reassures parents too’. The centre also offers free legal advice from qualifed lawyers to those who can't afford it.

This grant will pay for essential cleaning equipment to enable a safe space for people to meet again once restrictions are lifted.

Swindon MHA Communities – Granted £5,000

MHA Communities has been supporting older people in Swindon for more than eight year. As part of a nationwide network of committed volunteers, they help tackle loneliness and isolation in older people. Before lockdown they ran regular lunch clubs and friendship groups for singing, craft, guided walks and more.

“It’s all about supporting their wellbeing and their independence”, said Julie Dowie, who manages the Swindon scheme and coordinates all 35 volunteers. Each time the UK has gone into lockdown, the charity has had to stop its face to face sessions. However, they found different ways to continue their support. This has included telephone befriending services, collecting and delivering shopping to those shielding and the creation of monthly activity packs which include stories, puzzles and craft. “I had a lovely message from a lady who received her activity pack” Julie told us. “She was overwhelmed with joy. She said it would keep her occupied for ages. It’s so heart-warming when you hear that.”

 This grant will go toward the cost of activity packs reaching the 135 local people the charity supports. It will also go in part toward the cost of Julie’s role and expenses incurred by volunteers, enabling them to continue their support in the community. 

To find out more about the Swindon scheme of MHA Communities visit its Facebook page. If you’d li ke to donate to MHA Communities, click here