SOUTH Tyneside groups who have benefited from Comic Relief cash have praised the charity appeal in its 25th year.
Despite being known for its ground-breaking work in the developing world, funds are also ploughed into projects tackling poverty in the UK.
In the North East and Cumbria, 134 organisations have been supported by Comic Relief.
South Tyneside has benefited from more than £16,000, with the most recent grant awarded in October last year to the Compact for Race Equality in South Tyneside (Crest).
The charity, which works to improve race relations and promote equality, received £9,456.
Chief executive Shuley Alam said: “Crest is currently developing a media project for young people that will involve building their skills in media techniques.
“Through their involvement, young people will build their confidence, skills and capacity and have a voice that will enable them to challenge stereotypes and labels that exist within black and minority ethnic (BME) communities.
“A series of workshops will be run to produce positive images, case studies, literary and media materials that produce positive images of BME young people.”
Five borough groups received grants of £1,000 in April last year as part of an initiative handing out £1m to grassroots organisations.
They were South Tyneside Association of Residents, Friends of Bamburgh School, Hindu Nari Sangh, Low Simonside CA and the 14th South Shields Boys Brigade.
Hebburn Cricket Club received £700 under the same scheme.
Low Simonside CA, in Taunton Avenue, Jarrow, used the cash to set up fitness activities for young people, including Hoopla, Zumba and boxercise.
Centre manager Christine Burns said: “We are big on health here, with an indoor and outdoor gym and a health advisor, but not everything appeals to young people.
“We wanted to offer something that would complement our existing provision and put on a few different things.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of Comic Relief, because we do rely on funding.
“We have done things for Red Nose Day right from the very beginning. It’s nice to put something back.”
Hindu Nari Sangh, which organises cultural activities for the whole community, used the cash for its weekly Indian dance classes at the Customs House in South Shields.
Chairman Dr Shobha Srivastava said: “It is mostly ladies who stay at home and they come with their daughters.
“Not only do you get this bond between the mother and daughter dancing together, it is good for their health and gives a lot of fun to them.
“The main thing is it helps with community cohesion because we have got ladies from all the communities – Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and White.
“They are meeting with each other and they are friendly with each other.”
She added: “I think Comic Relief is fantastic. The amount of work they do and all the big performers who are happy to ridicule themselves for a good cause is great.
“They are not just helping us, they are giving to other charities in other countries.”
Dr Srivastava admits funding is a constant struggle for the group, which was founded in 1992 and has just celebrated its 20th year.
But she added: “We are still going strong and we are still doing things.”
Children with special educational needs benefited from the cash boost to Friends of Bamburgh School, which runs activities for disabled children and supports parents.
It has access to the climbing wall and trampolines at Mortimer Community Association in Reading Road, South Shields, and the money paid for a tutor to coach the youngsters on the equipment.
Chairman Malcolm Osborne said: “It is really important from a self-confidence point of view.
“The opportunity to get stuck in and achieve something is really good and they are learning a new skill.”
The group’s membership is mostly pupils from Bamburgh School, on the Horsley Hill Community Campus in South Shields, but it is open to all.
Mr Osborne has just applied for further Comic Relief funding for a residential course.
Adrian Berry, chairman of Hebburn Cricket Club, said the cash did more than just pay for a clean-up of its ground, it boosted team spirit.
“We had some work that needed doing around our outdoor net area,” he said. “Over the years the grass and weeds had become overgrown and stuff had been dumped around the back of it. We got a skip in and the club members volunteered to come in and get everything cleared and fit for winter training.
“The funding helped immensely - it galvanised us into action.”