A YOUTH project which has been mentoring young people in Oxford’s most deprived area for 15 years is the latest good cause to win a £5,000 Diamond Grant.

The Leys Youth Programme (LYP) started in 1999 as a football club for young people.

Now it is an independent charity working with more than 450 young people each year through sports and creative activities, youth clubs and mentoring.

Project leader Richard Colbrook, from Blackbird Leys, divides his time working as a part-time pastor with Oxfordshire Community Churches and the LYP.

He said: “The overriding aim of LYP is to bring hope for the future to young people, some of whom have given up on expecting anything positive out of life.

“We achieve these aims by running a number of projects which include everything from football to art and cheerleading to gaming.

“But all of our activities are far more than ‘social events’ for the young people, many of whom suffer from educational underachievement and low self-esteem.

“Through our projects we build constructive relationships with young people. Starting early – from six to eight years old – we are able to demonstrate that their expectations in life can be far greater than they often believe.

“And our long-term mentoring relationships, which begin before the teenage years, also reduce the risk of involvement in crime, drug misuse and entering early motherhood.”

Diamond Grants, worth £5,000, are funded by the Oxfordshire Jubilee Fund, which was launched during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in April 2012, to provide much-needed cash legacies for the county’s small and struggling charities.

Awarded by the Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF), other charities which have received the grants so far include advocacy group My Life My Choice, motor project Trax, and SpecialEffect, which adapts computer games for people with disabilities.

Mr Colbrook said: “It’s absolutely fantastic to receive this award, and the money will make a huge difference to our projects.

“We have always had to keep the programme sustainable and not let our costs run away with us.

“We have a small team of three part-time youth workers and a big team of volunteers.”

The charity’s Horizon Mentoring Project for young men, launched in May 2008 with the backing of BBC Children in Need, seeks to break the cycle of deprivation which results from poor educational attainment, leading to low pay or unemployment, which leads to more children growing up in material poverty.

In 2010, LYP started mentoring work with the Oxford Academy.

  • Further Diamond Grants will be made in 2014. Nominations of up to 600 words can be made at diamond@oxfordshire.org or posted to Oxfordshire Community Foundation, 3 Woodin’s Way, Oxford, OX1 1HD.