OVER the past 25 years the Amber Foundation has helped over 4,000 young people, aged 17 to 30, with the majority leaving troubled pasts behind them and moving on to bright futures.

Barty Smith OBE, Amber’s founder and current chairman, 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.

Amber operated at Tottenham House near Marlborough from 1995-2005 andopened a further centre in Devon at Ashley Court, Chawleigh near Crediton in July 2002 and Bythesea Lodge in Trowbridge a year later.

Former resident Douglas Jones, who is now a successful DJ in Chamonix in the French Alps, grew up on military bases and moved to the UK aged 18 after he could not find a job in Cyprus.

After spending a long time looking for work he enrolled in a government scheme for long-term unemployed young people, and went to a presentation about Amber.

“My team leader was a woman called Georgie, she was amazing but it was certainly tough love, I owe a lot to her.

“The staff asked me what I enjoyed doing and urged me to build a career from it. I always enjoyed music but up to that point I never thought I could make a living out of it.”

While at Amber Doug was told about a residential music course run by the Prince’s Trust. The staff at Amber helped him enrol and to make the journey to Wales to attend and his for future life course was set.

Barty, who was awarded the OBE in 2018 in recognition his work said: “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.”

Paul Rosam, Amber’s CEO, said “It is an extremely strange time to be reflecting on 25 years in operation but I am immensely proud of what we have achieved since we first opened our doors. More recently the way the residents and our staff have risen to the threat of Coronavirus and the challenges of lockdown has been inspiring. Those at the Wiltshire centre even organised a mini Olympics event of 26 different events over 5 days for the 2.6 Challenge to raise awareness and funds for our work locally. I’m so proud of the way we have coped as an organisation and feel it is a testament to Amber’s unique ethos and overall resilience.”

For more information about the charity, how you can access help for yourself or a loved one, or support the charity in a variety of ways can be found on www.amberweb.org or by emailing Stephen.Ballantyne@amberweb.org.