Samsons Academy initiative in the running for National Lottery ‘Project of the Year’

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A Bedford project, which aims to support the LGBTQ community through a combination of boxing, martial arts and holistic support, is in the running for National Lottery Project of the Year, and they need your votes.

The Allsorts project, run by Samsons Academy, has benefitted over 100 young people in Bedfordshire since it launched in January 2021, following a grant of £9,320 from the National Lottery.

The project beat off stiff competition from more than 1,500 organisations to reach the public voting stage in this year’s National Lottery Awards, which celebrate the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.

“We were really fortunate to secure the funding for this scheme, and are really proud of what we’ve achieved,” said Dorian Alexis, co-founder and COO of Samsons Academy.

“As part of the project, we offered online access to a therapist and counselling service in partnership with Meaningful Education CIC and Therapy With Ltd. We also gave the young people access to yoga and pilates offered by our in-house instructor plus self-defence classes in either boxing or krav maga.”

Pauline Stepney worked with the charity to maximise their engagement with the BME and LGBTQIA community.

Dorian said: “Having the additional support from activists like Peter Tatchell from the Peter Tatchell Foundation Charity, formally from Stonewall, was of great help and he has remained a brilliant source of information and encouragement.”

Despite Bedford being a diverse town, Dorian says it still has some way to go in ensuring adequate services are available for young people from all walks of life.

“This starts with having fair access to resources as well as statutory services, which due to underfunding and affordability have seen some much-needed venues and services vanish,” he explained.

“The trustees and directors of Samsons Academy Charity have always said we are more than just a gym and we stand by this statement. We really hope the local and wider community can get behind our nomination and show that some vitally important and much-needed work is being carried out in the Shires.”

There are 17 shortlisted finalists from across the UK, who will compete in a four-week public vote to be named the inaugural National Lottery Project of the Year.

Winners will receive a £3,000 cash prize for their project and an iconic National Lottery Awards trophy.

“We support a big sector of the community from young people not in education, employment and training, to adults with enduring mental health impairment, as well as supporting the the LGBQIA+ community,” said Dorian.

“We want to offer that safe space to all who need it and make a positive impact across Bedfordshire.

“To be recognised for the work we do with National Lottery funding is an honour and we really hope people will get behind us.”

Jonathan Tuchner, from the National Lottery, said: “In these challenging times that we still find ourselves in, we see so many examples of inspirational work throughout our communities, driven by these very projects. It’s thanks to National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes, that brilliant projects like these, are possible.

“Samsons Academy are doing some incredible work in their local community and they thoroughly deserve to be in the finals of the National Lottery Awards Project of the Year 2021. With your support, they could be a winner.”

To vote for Samsons Academy, please go to lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards or use the Twitter hashtag #NLASamsons. Voting runs from 9am on 6 September until 5pm on 4th October.

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