A CHARITY that helps disadvantaged youngsters build a better future for themselves has been given a much-needed financial boost thanks to a nomination from the local community.

SMASH (Swindon Mentoring and Self Help Youth Project) has been running in the town for nearly 20 years and helps children aged nine to 18 achieve their full potential in life through a mentoring programme.

Now the charity, which is based at the Pinetree Community Centre in Pinehurst, has been granted £4,000 from the Masonic Charitable Foundation Community Awards.

After being nominated for the funds by locals, Helen Fisher, managing director of the charity said the team of dedicated volunteers have been overwhelmed by the support.

“For us this hugely positive," she said. "We were nominated by the community which means that we have been recognised for our work which is really satisfying and the fact they have gone out of their way to vote for us is amazing.

“We just want to say a big thanks to everyone.

“We are here for the community and when you are doing your day-to-day work with children it can feel like you are working in isolation but when you look up and see that people are behind you it gives the children and volunteers that extra boost."

SMASH was founded in 1999 by Swindon Borough Council to work with young people and help them change their view of themselves.

When the local authority pulled out a decade ago, volunteers rallied round and took over the service, which costs £200,000 a year to run. While mentors and trustees are volunteers, most of the funding goes towards the salary of the seven support workers hired to train and assist the team and youngsters.

The funds received will be put towards celebrating the work of dozens of volunteers who give up two hours of their time every week for an entire year to help young people.

Helen added: “We know that is a significant amount of time and energy for a member of the public to give up on a weekly basis but it is staggering how many people want to help.

“The money will go towards thanking them because they are heroes in our community and we wouldn’t be able to run the service without them.

“There is often the idea that you need money first but we need the volunteers first.

“As a result of our work, 94 per cent of the children have an increased sense of optimism and 83 per cent demonstrate a confident and positive relationship with others.

“What they add up to is a more positive transition into adulthood. They should be able to go on in life in a positive and constructive way.

“Because the volunteers are able to build a relationship with the children they talk about their goals and what they want to achieve. Some could be getting five GCSEs while another could be leaving the house independently.

“Over time that relationship offers them a consistency and safe place. It makes them realise they are the authors of their own lives and not a character in someone else’s.”

The charity has helped over 2,000 children since its inception and more than 70 youngsters will be supported by the volunteers this year alone.