OCF has awarded a large grant to Trax, an Oxford-based charity that provides training opportunities and counselling to disadvantaged and disengaged young people. The group, which specialises in bike refurbishment, is using the grant to create a social enterprise model that will allow them to be self-sufficient.
OCF awarded the grant of £30,000 from one of the multiple Comic Relief programmes it runs. Trax’s application stood out from those OCF received because of its wide-reaching impact and ambitious plans to become more self-sufficient.
Trax is establishing a sustainable social enterprise that creates employment opportunities for young people aged 16–24. This will be based around refurbishing recycled bicycles. Students are trained to be peer mentors (Trax Ambassadors), and they then show 8–16 year-olds how to re-build and maintain a bike. The young people attending the course keep the bike at the end, and have an environmentally friendly and healthy mode of transport. The ambassadors are paid for delivering the course, gaining their first paid employment and a route into the job market.
Many who access Trax are marginalised from school or society, exhibit low self-esteem issues and have a high risk of anti-social behaviour and becoming involved in criminal activity. Trax addresses these issues by offering a complete holistic package, mixing the application of practical skills with group work, mentoring support, teambuilding and fun. Aiden, 18, an Entry 3 Motor Vehicle student at Trax, says: “You guys are great, I never knew that you could use maths so much in the workshop… in fact you’ve even made it fun!” Each young person who attends Trax is treated as an individual and given a flexible service that strives to help individuals develop and reach their full potential before moving on to further education, apprenticeships or work.
In Oxfordshire, youth unemployment peaked in 2014 at 6.8% compared to 6.3% in the South East as a whole, and increasing numbers of young people come to Trax because of difficulties at home or school. Many of them are struggling because of low self-esteem and confidence issues, behaviour problems, mental health issues and drug or alcohol misuse. Others have little or no qualifications and have been unable to secure work or training once leaving school.
Olivia Davies, Youth Worker at Trax, says: “The push bike project has been a main focus in 2014, and we are proud of the great work that our youth mentors and students have achieved. In 2014 the push bike team worked with 17 groups giving 150 young people the opportunity to fix, maintain and own a second hand push bike. This great project has also led to the development of key staff, and two of our youth mentors have now moved into full time work within the industry.”
Jayne Woodley, CEO of Oxfordshire Community Foundation, says: “This grant will make a huge difference to people living in the local area – from the individuals helped directly by the work, to the community more widely. We are delighted to be helping to get even more Comic Relief funding to the communities that need it most.”
Working through the community foundation allows Comic Relief to access comprehensive local knowledge and an array of contacts from local charities and community groups, such as Trax, working at the coalface of social need in Oxfordshire.