Barty Smith, the Founder and Chair of Trustees of the Amber Foundation was awarded an OBE in this year’s New Year’s Honours list.
He founded the Amber Foundation 23 years ago to help homeless and unemployed young people in crisis to positively transform their lives. He became aware of the need for Amber after working with several young people from the ‘Youth Opportunities Programme ’, a training programme that was run in the 1970s and 80s and gave unemployed school leavers the opportunity to engage in on the job training. The young people he worked with frequently had troubled backgrounds, didn’t know what they wanted from life and many were dealing with complex problems and difficult family lives. Struck by the lack of support for young people, their lack of aspiration and low self-esteem he wanted to do something that would help young people to rebuild their self-belief and help them to find a positive direction and focus for their future.
“Young people who have fallen on hard times, been out of work, or have just lost their way need space and time to focus on their future, free from the added pressures of unemployment or how they will afford their next meal.” Barty Smith
The Amber Foundation gives young people in crisis a safe, temporary home with up to 90 other young people in one of its three UK centres, whilst supporting them to develop the skills that they need for independent living and employment.
“I have always felt that by having fun and building self-esteem and confidence, people see the world differently and see the opportunities that in the past have always been there but were never seen. This is usually because they were too bogged down with trying to survive or were being dragged into a life of drugs and crime, often through mixing with the wrong crowd or just because life had dealt them a pretty rotten hand.” Barty Smith
Youth homelessness is a massive and growing problem, homelessness has increased by 134% over the last 6 years and it is estimated that each year around 83,000 young people experience homelessness. Since it was established the Amber Foundation has worked with over 3500 young people and over the last 5 years 80% have moved on from Amber into education, employment, voluntary work or they have achieved a major life goal.
“…they helped me to realise my life isn’t over and I’ve got a chance to correct it. I’m so grateful to them because they had faith in me and sparked me to believe in myself. I really wouldn’t be where I am today without Amber. It builds your confidence and belief in what you can achieve and teaches you how to deal with other people. And it gets you into a structure which is something that really helped me.” Jodie – Former Amberteer
Barty’s continued passion and commitment to Amber has seen it develop and grow from one residential centre to three centres which are based in Wiltshire, Surrey and Devon. He frequently spends time at each of the centres so he can meet and talk to the residents.
I am very pleased to receive this award and it is fantastic that the work of the Amber Foundation has been nationally recognised. So many young people have a difficult start in life or things can go wrong but I really believe that with the right space, encouragement and support they can see and work towards an alternative future to the one they might have had on benefits and on the streets. Barty Smith