THIS week, we focus on a tiny charity that has made a big difference to the lives of many people in Swindon.

Phoenix Enterprises has arranged an array of activities for people with learning difficulties and mental health conditions to enjoy as part of an effort to beat the winter blues.

The charity brings together dozens of volunteers to take part in fitness events, educational sessions, money management classes, and fun days out.

Mike Bowden, one of its trustees, joined the group three years ago after the sports club he worked for at the time donated money to help it cover costs of replacing stolen IT equipment. He said: “In autumn, we decided to have a month set aside for a new series of events and January is a really good time to do it, with the winter blues and the financial constraints, people need cheering up.

“At the heart of it all, we are trying to maximise people’s potential by helping them into the workplace, whether it’s for the first time or returning, and support them so that they have financial security, a good quality of life, and independence.

“Around half of our clients probably aren’t going to end up in work, so they volunteer with us and we give them a structure to their days and a place where they can meet new people, make friends and feel included socially. We feel like an extended family, and our clients say the same, we support each other and we work with a smile in a friendly atmosphere and try to make the days fun.

“We’re a tiny charity, with only three paid employees, but we like to think we make a big difference.This place is good for the soul, we’re like an essential safety net for people in Swindon. We’re always on the lookout for volunteers, and for businesses who want to show a progressive, socially-responsible side and partner with us because that really helps the morale of users and staff here.”

Volunteers at the charity, which has just three paid employees, have enjoyed a trip to watch the Swindon Wildcats, a boxing taster session at Scrapper’s Gym. Still to come are a cinema club film day, a lunchtime walking club session, a coffee morning, a healthy-eating lunch, and workshops on keeping active, money management, dental hygiene, and dealing with stress, depression and anxiety.

Chairman of trustees Emma Rees said: “I’m really proud of the range of courses and activities we’ve arranged for January. We are always looking for new ideas to support the development of our service users as well as having fun. All these good things require funding and I’m grateful for recent donations from Warburtons Bakers, Thomas Wall Trust, Marjorie Viggars Charitable Trust and Zurich Community Trust.”

The recently-formed Phoenix football team will take to the pitch later this year, proudly wearing a new kit generously sponsored by local recruitment business Aligra.

Phoenix is hosting an open day today at its Groundwell Industrial Estate base to show local people and their families what it can offer. Call 01793 729902 or visit