News

The Amber Foundation – a quarter of a century in operation

This year marks 25 years since Amber first opened our doors to young people facing hard times. Amber begun at Tottenham House near Marlborough in Wiltshire, in 1995 and we now run three supported housing centres in the south and south – west of England. Over the last 25 years Amber has helped over 4000 people aged 17-30 with the majority leaving their troubled pasts behind them and moving on to bright independent futures. Barty Smith OBE, Amber’s founder and current chair, first became aware of the need for Amber after working in his business with several young people from the ‘Youth Opportunities Programme’ that gave unemployed school leavers the opportunity to engage in on the job training. Barty was struck by the lack of support for young people, their lack of aspiration and low self-esteem. He decided he wanted to do something that would help them rebuild their self-belief and help them to find a positive direction and focus for their future. Barty was able to secure a lease of Tottenham House near Marlborough where he personally welcomed the first Amber residents. Barty remembers the years the charity spent at Tottenham house fondly; “it was such a special time – the house helped enormously – it made such an impression on new residents, funders and visitors alike. I still remember the opening day and the start of what I call the Amber magic. It’s still with us today.” Amber continued to operate at Tottenham House until 2005 and in their first ten years opened a further centre in Devon at Ashley Court, Chawleigh near Crediton in July 2002... read more

Amber residents and staff in Wiltshire embrace the 2.6 challenge with a mini Olympics!

Bythesea Lodge, Amber’s Wiltshire centre, has staged a mini Olympics as part of the 2.6 Challenge, a new initiative from the organisers of the postponed London Marathon. The 2.6 initiative was launched because of the catastrophic effect the Covid-19 pandemic has had on charities. At a time where they are needed the most charities have seen the loss of billions in income through fundraising events alongside ballooning costs and rising demand. The Virgin Money London Marathon alone, which should have taken place on Sunday 26 April, is the world’s biggest one-day fundraising event, which raised more than £66.4 million for thousands of charities in 2019. As it cannot take place as planned, its organisers have created a ‘lockdown-friendly event’ which is easy for anyone to join in and make a difference, especially for smaller local charities. The Amber Foundation, like so many charities across the UK, has been hugely impacted by Covid-19. However, at this time of crisis, the charity has continued to house and support homeless and unemployed young people in the country at their centres in Wiltshire, Surrey and Devon ensuring that some of the most vulnerable in the country have a safe place to live throughout this pandemic. Residents and staff at the centre have really embraced the 2.6 initiative and have staged 26 challenges held over 5 days all hinged around the numbers 2, 6 and 26. The event featured a range of challenges so that as many residents as possible could get involved not just those interested in sports and fitness. The event kicked off with an egg and spoon race and a plank... read more

Amber wins Howard League award!

We are delighted that the Amber Foundation has won a Community Award from the Howard League for Penal Reform for the work we do with homeless young people to reduce re-offending.

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Construction Training for Amber residents in Devon

We’ve recently joined forces with Train4all to provide construction training and taster sessions for our residents, who have been grappling with homelessness or long term unemployment. Train4all are a leading provider of construction training in the South West with City and Guilds and Open College Network Approved Centres. Building on their success in Somerset, Train4All recently opened their North Devon Skills Centre in South Molton creating new training opportunities for young people in the North and Mid Devon areas. This summer a group of residents from Amber attended Train4All’s Enrolment Week which featured taster sessions and demonstrations in a wide variety of trades. There was also a chance to look round their new facilities and sign up to various courses including bricklaying, property maintenance, armed forces resettlement and programmes for those who are unemployed. Lewis, 22 who has been at Amber for 2 months said “I really enjoyed the day – being shown the proper technique for bricklaying was really cool. The trainers I spoke to were really helpful and supportive – giving me tips on how to get my CSCS card. I’ve signed up for the “Routeway 2 Construction” course and can’t wait to get started.”  The “Routeway 2 Construction” programme is delivered over 4 weeks and is an accessible way for unemployed people, interested in a career in the industry, to find out about routes into various trades. Kevin Ellis, Centre Manager at Ashley Court said “Getting our residents geared up for employment is a central part of what we do at Amber. Sustainable employment is key to maintaining independence after they move on from us. We are always... read more

Magician visits homeless unemployed young people

Young people struggling with homelessness and unemployment living at Ashley Court, Amber’s Devon residential centre, has recently had a visit from Mark Leveridge, a professional magician based in Crediton. Mark treated our residents and staff to a talk about his 35 year career in magic and thew in some amazing magic tricks for good measure. Rebecca Fry, Fundraising Manager at Ashley Court, said “an important part of Amber’s development programme is inviting people in to deliver interesting and engaging talks to our residents about their jobs, experiences and personal battles. Mark’s talk was really engaging and entertaining but also gave our residents some food for thought about how some people make a living in an unconventional way. We all really enjoyed Mark’s visit and are very grateful he came.” Mark really appreciated the invitation to Ashley Court. “Amber are doing really great work at Ashley Court and I really enjoyed visiting and entertaining the young residents. I enjoyed visit and the magic seemed to both puzzled and inspired them!” Mark is available for hire across Bristol and the South West. He performs at a variety of events including weddings, parties and corporate events. For more information his website is https://www.expertmagician.co.uk/ Amber is always on the lookout for speakers to support their programme. If you are interested delivering a talk or getting involved in other ways please contact Rebecca on [email protected] or 01769... read more

Amber celebrates Youth Music Funding

We are thrilled to announce that we have secured Youth Music funding to run a new music project for our young residents who have been grappling with unemployment and homelessness. The project will be run in partnership with our long term partners Music in Devon Initiative (MIDI). MIDI is a non-profit-making organisation which has been founded by a group of local musicians and music industry professionals. They develop emerging talent, increase opportunities for musicians and audiences, and generate business for the music industry in Devon. Rebecca Fry, Fundraising Manager, at our Devon centre, Ashley Court, said “Working with MIDI to encourage our residents to make music and be creative has been extraordinarily beneficial. It has helped them with articulating their emotions and frustrations alongside being a huge boost to their confidence and self-esteem. It is also a fantastic way of raising awareness amongst the general public of the struggles they have faced. We are absolutely thrilled to have secured this funding as it will allow us to develop the project further and provide more opportunities for our residents to showcase their work.” The Amber Music Project is supported by Youth Music, using public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Youth Music is a national charity investing in music-making projects that support children and young people to develop personally and socially as well as musically. The staff and residents at Amber recently celebrated the launch of their new project with a morning of music and creativity at Ashley Court. The event gave some of the participants a chance to perform some of their own material including the... read more

Visit from Médecins Sans Frontières

Recently we were thrilled to welcome Flowa Houldsworth a volunteer with Medecines sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) to deliver a talk to our residents at Ashley Court, our Devon residential centre for young people who have experienced homelessness and unemployment. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international humanitarian medical non-governmental organisation best known for its projects in conflict zones and in countries affected by endemic diseases. Their medical teams work all over the world responding to conflict, natural disasters and epidemics saving people’s lives. Flowa delivered a photographic presentation about MSF’s coordinated response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2013-16. Her talk included memories of her own experiences of working there as a nurse and midwife in 2014. She even bought a full protective Ebola Suit like the ones worn by medics while caring for patients. Rebecca Fry, Fundraising Manager at Ashley Court, said “an important part of Amber’s development programme is offering our young residents new experiences and a chance to expand their horizons. This is why we invite speakers in from all walks of life to deliver inspirational talks about their jobs, experiences and personal battles. Flowa’s talk was really engaging- we’re very grateful she came.” Flowa said “I really enjoyed meeting Amber’s current residents. They asked very interesting questions about the protective clothing worn by the MSF team to prevent the spread of infection. They shared their feelings on the devastation and grief suffered by Liberian families. We all found the experience very moving.” We are always on the lookout for speakers to support our programme. If you are interested in coming to speak... read more

Amber celebrates support from Nationwide Building Society

We are thrilled to announce that Amber has been awarded funding from Nationwide Building Society to support our work with young homeless people in Devon. Nationwide, the UK’s biggest building society, has been looking to support charities dealing with the many issues around housing in the South West area, and recently made £500,000 available to help make a difference across communities across the region. At Ashley Court, in Chawleigh in Mid Devon, we give young people a temporary home and a programme of support that focuses on each person’s strengths and gives them the motivation and skills to move on to sustainable accommodation plus a job or a place at college or university. Nationwide will be funding a Team Leader in Devon to help young homeless people transform their lives and futures for good. Connor Sams-Hurst, 23, who recently left Ashley Court with a flat and a full time job as a security officer said  “My team leader has been amazing, so helpful and enthusiastic…she helped me see a future, find what to do and achieve it. I’m really grateful for the support I’ve had from her and from Amber because without it I really think I’d be dead.” Rebecca Fry, Fundraising Manager at Ashley Court, said “Connor’s words speak for themselves. Our Team Leaders are central to what we offer to our young residents who have, for whatever reason, lost their way. To support a young person like Conner Amber has to raise £5,000 to ensure they have the support, guidance and reassurance they need to move forward positively. We are extremely grateful to Nationwide Building Society for... read more

Amber residents setting sail with the Ocean Youth Trust

At the end of April a group of residents from across Amber’s three residential centres set sail from Southampton Ocean Village Marina. They completed a five night voyage on board the 30 metre vessel “Prolific” accompanied by a trained and qualified crew who are all volunteers from the Ocean Youth Trust. Caroline White, Business Manager at the Ocean Youth Trust said “All participants who completed the voyage earned Royal Yachting Association Competent Crew certificates. This is the second-level qualification – more commonly, we award the more basic RYA Start Yachting certificate. It is a genuine achievement to earn the more advanced qualification on a first voyage and only occurs when people are prepared to put in the effort to get through a more demanding syllabus. We always like to stress that these are proper recognised qualifications which young people can keep in their Record of Achievement. It shows that they mastered some basic sailing skills; but perhaps even more importantly, earning the certificate also provides evidence of transferable skills. To complete it, they had to be able to listen, concentrate, work in a team, practise things when they initially struggled, until they were able to get them right, take part in routine tasks such as cooking and cleaning as well as the more exciting jobs, cope with living in an entirely unfamiliar situation, cope with being away from home, undertake tasks which some will have found really challenging, take responsibility when asked, and much more. They should all be proud of themselves for doing so well.” Amber residents who completed the voyage were tested to their limits and but had... read more