DISADVANTAGED youngsters are among those set to benefit from almost £130,000 awarded by Stratford Town Trust in its final round grant giving this year.
The Friendship Project for Children matches children in need with adult volunteers – called ‘Older Friends’ – to help build a child’s self-esteem and confidence.
The project has been awarded £7,070 to support its work in Stratford and to raise its profile in a bid to recruit more volunteers who are desperately needed to help disadvantaged children in the town.
The charity currently supports 65 friendships across Warwickshire – but there are a similar number on the waiting list, unable to be paired with a friend because there are not enough volunteers.
In Stratford, there are six friendships currently supported, but so many more children waiting to benefit. The Friendship Project has asked local schools to pause sending referrals until more volunteers can be recruited.
Richard Barrett, Friendship Project trustee and fund-raiser, said: “If we could just double the number of older friends in Stratford it would be amazing – because there is no shortage of children in need.
“Our volunteers come from all sorts of backgrounds, some are parents whose children have grown up and moved away, others don’t have any children. But of course, ‘older friend’ is just the term we use – it could be someone in their 20s, who has moved away from home themselves, from nieces and nephews perhaps.
“You have to have an interest in developing a one-to-one friendship with a young person, in taking the time to talk to them, gradually building their trust, enabling them to experience things in a safe environment that they would not usually have the opportunity to do. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive – it could be playing football in the park, but to a child who doesn’t get to do that – maybe because their parent is caring for a disabled sibling at home, it means a huge amount.”
“It’s so rewarding for our older friends too – many say it’s the best thing they have ever done.”
Visit www.friendshipproject.co.uk or call 0845 8382098 for further details.
Other grants include £5,072 for Stratford Youth Theatre to support its production of Robin Hood at the Stratford Playhouse in April. Stratford Literary Festival was awarded £4,000 to support its ‘Books with Friends’ group – a free, informal book club for those over 55.
Escape Arts received £24,536 to provide longer term investment to underpin a community inclusion volunteer and youth work experience programme, reaching isolated people,
Lifespace Trust was granted £17,545 to support the training of more volunteer mentors for young people.
Stratford Foodbank received £12,800 to allow it to continue and develop.
Avon Bowling Club was granted £10,000 to support the enhancement of club facilities.
Stratford Town Council was awarded £5,000 to work with the town trust to again include the community in a special ‘People’s Pageant’ as part of the annual Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations parade.
Trust chief executive Sara Aspley said: “We’re really pleased to be able to support each and every one of these organisations and projects – from the larger grants that sustain some of the most invaluable charity work already happening in the town, to the smaller grants which can have an equally big impact.
“There are so many people working incredibly hard to make a difference in our community, and we’re very proud to support them.”