We've recently supported two more local community heroes with grants from the Oakfield Community Response Fund, set up with the Wiltshire Community Foundation. Read on to find out more about these great organisations and the work they do.
The Tamil Association - granted £2,000
The Tamil Association was started more than 15 years to support Tamil refugees coming to the Swindon area from Sri Lanka and other countries with housing, schooling, employment and in learning the English language.
Over the years it has broadened its reach and while continuing to support and signpost in these areas, it also has a large focus on supporting young people to engage with their heritage and culture. Through 10 classes run each weekend, over 140 students and children aged 4-17 are taught traditional Tamil dance, music and provided with support in completing GCSEs in the Tamil language. ‘The classes not only provide a place for children to make friends, but help build their confidence’ said Ram Thiagarajah, the Association’s President. ‘We run the annual Diwali festival in Swindon, attended by around 200-300 people every year. The students perform at this and at other events which enables them to express themselves in public. It’s a great confidence builder for them’.
With the festivals being open to the general public, they also support cohesion with the wider community and encourage understanding of the Tamil culture. During lockdown the Association was able to continue many of its classes online, but this funding will go toward running costs of hiring halls and teachers for when it is safe for face to face classes to resume.
SMASH - Grant received - £5,000
SMASH supports young people who find themselves in challenging circumstances to promote improved mental health and wellbeing.
It runs three different professional mentoring programmes in schools and colleges across the Swindon area, this usually takes the form of lunch clubs and one to one sessions. ‘The pandemic has been difficult for many children and young people and evidence suggests that many are experiencing even greater levels of anxiety than they did before’ said Moira Leitch, SMASH’s Project Director ‘our ongoing programs are aimed at helping students to develop personal confidence and self-esteem to encourage friendships, classroom engagement and an improvement in communication skills.’
During the second lockdown, and with schools staying open, the professional mentoring programmes was able to continue with additional risk assessments in place, working more one-to-one as opposed to in group sessions. This grant will go toward general running costs for the charity and help SMASH to continue to adapt in response to the variety of challenges being faced by children and young people as a result of COVID and changing restrictions.