Last Sunday I spent an enjoyable afternoon celebrating the work of local charity SMASH – Swindon Mentoring and Self Help.

SMASH run a mentoring scheme across Swindon where adults are paired with young people who are facing a variety of significant challenges. Mentors meet with the same young person once a week to give support, encouragement and guidance. Depending on the young person’s needs, a mentor might take them for a cup of coffee or on a trip somewhere.

Mentors encourage the young person to believe in themselves, help to build up their self-confidence, and help them take steps towards achieving their goals.

I was first introduced to the work of SMASH through one of my friends who was volunteering as a mentor. He explained that he had been paired with young people who each had their own individual challenges.

None of them had a stable home life, so having a mentor to act as a figure of stability and having somebody who actually wanted to spend time with them was a first.

Having heard my friend talk about one of the lads he was paired with, I helped him to find a local tech company who would offer him some work experience as he was very interested in computers and gaming.

This was something that nobody had ever arranged for him before and he was genuinely taken aback that people had gone to such efforts to help him. This really stuck with me and since then I have been very keen to support the work of SMASH and have helped them to build awareness and gain recognition for the important work that they do.

Since then, SMASH haS become a regular feature at my community office where they hold regular training sessions and trustee meetings.

I have previously nominated them for a national Kids Count Award which they won and collected on a trip to Parliament; as well as recommending them to the Queen’s Award panel, which rightly gave them one of the national awards – equivalent to an MBE for voluntary groups.

The event on Sunday was partly to celebrate these awards as well as thank the volunteers that have made it all possible. It was great to see over 100 people turn out, all of whom have supported SMASH in some way over the last 16 years.

Having attended a school where several of my friends and classmates ended up going to prison, I have seen first-hand what happens if a young person misses out on having a crucial support network around them.

It is something that most of us take for granted, but often a lot of young people don’t have a person that they can talk to, or somebody caring for them and guiding them to reach their potential.

SMASH steps in to help a lot of these young people and I am very proud that we have them here in Swindon.

If anybody is interested in becoming a mentor, trustee or friend of this fantastic charity, then please let me know so I can help to put people in touch.