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VOLUNTEER groups and small charities in Swindon received a New Year’s boost with vital grants totaling more than £130,000 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation.

Many of the community grants awarded by the charity, the county’s largest Wiltshire-based funder, are staggered over a three-year period, giving recipients peace of mind that funding for community projects is guaranteed.

Recipients of the latest round of community grants include the Wiltshire Women Empowerment Program in Swindon, which has received £5,000 a year for the next three years to run training courses and support for ethnic minority women.

The charity, which has offices and a contact point at The Parade in Swindon, supports women from the Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities who want to find independence or a way out of poverty through education, or who need help with mental health issues, domestic violence or isolation.

Chair Nokuthula Ndebele said: “This scholarship benefits women from disadvantaged communities, particularly black and minority ethnic groups and their families.

“The services that are provided to them are designed to address their issues of access to legal services, rights and entitlements, quality of life, trust, participation in the wider community, and health and well-being.”

The group conducts courses including sewing and crafts classes for members, and assists with information and applications for education and training, as well as issues such as health and housing. It also works with other Swindon groups and bodies including Swindon Borough Council, Swindon Live Well Hub, VAS, The Harbor Project, Food Banks, MIND and Swindon Sister’s Alliance.

Uplands Enterprise Trust has been awarded £5,000 for a multi-sensor projection system. Based on Upper Shaw Ridge Farm, the Trust provides life and work skills for young people and adults with special educational needs.

Fundraising coordinator Caroline Dent said the projector will help young people with multiple and complex disabilities improve their communication, interaction and decision-making skills.

“We hope to open up a new inclusive sensory world to our user group,” she said.

“The projection can be ground based for people with limited abilities and they can appear as if they are swimming in the sea, on a beach, in a city or in space, giving them freedom to move and explore the world to experience around them. Many cannot physically hold a brush, but with the tiniest touch movement they can “paint” a picture that allows them to perceive conscious movement when repeating behavioral patterns and improves hand-eye coordination.”

Wiltshire and Swindon Credit Union has been awarded £5,000 to upgrade their IT so they can extend their service across the county.

It is currently offering cheap loans to prevent indebted people from being attracted to payday loans or loan sharks.

Currently it’s limited to working with families on child support, but new technology will make it possible to work with those on Universal Credit. It also plans to launch its own debit card and service to prevent tenants with rent arrears from being evicted.

Fiona Oliver, Chief Executive of the Wiltshire Community Foundation said: “We are only able to provide these grants because of the generosity of our donors.

“They trust us with their donations to make the greatest possible impact for causes or places that matter most to them.

“We know the brilliant groups we fund are doing this and will use the grants to really improve the lives of the local people who depend on them.”

The application deadline for the next round of community grants, which will be awarded in March, is January 28th. More details on eligibility and application at wiltshirecf.org.uk