LAST week saw charity worker Andy Matthews experience a rollercoaster of emotions. On Wednesday, Andy, who works as a project manager for men's mental health charity, KIM 4 HIM, came into work at The Hub, Park Lane, Holywell to find a shelter that had been built by a group of men as part of the project's Men's Shed initiative had been targeted by vandals leaving him no choice but abandon the building after six months of deliberate damage.

Just 24 hours later and it was a different story as Andy found out KIM 4 HIM would be receiving a share of over £30,000 with three other North Wales charities thanks to a successful application to the National Lottery Awards for All scheme which will enable him to launch the project in Wrexham using the methods which have made it such a hit in Flintshire.

"Sadly, we have had over six months of damage to our Men's Shed building and we can no longer afford to pay for the on-going repairs," said Andy.

"The young people have got more and more nonchalant in their destructive behaviours and the police have been powerless to take any action despite knowing the individuals concerned.

"They upped the ante yesterday by being verbally abusive to staff, vulnerable adults accessing KIM and intimidating others by banging on the building windows and trying to force access to our reception.

"Our staff had to call 999 for the Police to remove them.

"The safety of our staff and people we work alongside is paramount. To reduce the chances of the vandals coming back we have taken down the shelter they were using to congregate. We will be able to re-use the materiel in one of our other projects and we have pop up shelters for the Men's Shed to use. There is always a plan!"

Andy established a support group for men with mental health problems in 2014 at KIM Inspire - 12 years after the charity was founded to help women suffering similar issues.

Initially set up as a trial during Andy’s studies with Wrexham Glyndwr University, the KIM 4 HIM project has already helped hundreds of men in North Wales to cope with issues including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and bipolar.

Tackling masculinity is at the heart of the initiative, which provides a weekly drop-in service for men to socialise and take part in activities and projects in the community. As part of this the Men's Shed project gives men place to pursue practical interests at leisure, to practice skills and enjoy making and mending. In short, they’re about social connections and friendship building, sharing skills and knowledge, and of course a lot of laughter.

"There is no other service of the kind we offer in Wales or the UK which tackles masculinity – that is factors which preclude men from seeking help because of their social construction," said Andy.

"Men won’t seek support and turn to other coping methods – alcohol, drugs and unfortunately suicide – before asking for help with emotional issues. As men we are rubbish at speaking out when we need help.

"We’re ahead of the curve in terms of the innovative type of service we offer and we’re increasingly forging links with the community, for example developing volunteering opportunities with Holywell Town Football Club.

"The project started with a target of helping 12 clients during a five month trial period. We had 12 people by the end of the second week.

"All of the evidence points towards a need for this type of service in the third sector and if I had my way it would be in every town in the world. The community work makes so much sense and the cost saving impact of working with people at the lowest level of contact is massive.”

Andy switched career following a 14-year career with the RAF, where he progressed to become a senior instructor and took on roles with responsibility for staff welfare.

He was accepted at Wrexham Glyndwr University with only two GCSEs based on his extensive experience and graduated with a first class degree and departmental award for his achievements. He is now studying for Phd thanks to a six year support grant and hopes to advise the Welsh Government on future policy when it comes to men's mental health.

“It was a big jump and I took a huge pay cut to start on my career as a social worker but I’m now in a job that I love,” said Andy. “And I wouldn’t dream of leaving either because of the satisfaction and huge rewards from the outcomes you can get working with individuals who are potentially marginalised by society.

“I’ve brought military skills and values to my post at KIM – respect and integration – to make the KIM 4 HIM project a success.

“The university took a chance on me when they offered me a place without formal educational qualifications which I’ll forever be grateful to them for.”

Andy will now use the grant to provide a Kim 4 Him support service over 12 months with a total of £9,956 going towards funding a member of staff, volunteers and expenses.

“Wrexham is crying out for this service and the Lottery funding has arrived at a crucial time for men’s mental health in the town as the need continues to grow on a daily basis," added Andy. "The grant will enable KIM Inspire to replicate its award winning methods for KIM 4 Him Flintshire into Wrexham and provide a pilot service to men facing significant barriers to engaging with support.”

Gareth Williams, funding Manager at the Big Lottery Fund, said: “This project builds on a successful pilot which KIM Inspire ran in Flintshire. It meets one of our key priorities in that it will help the men who access it to address and overcome barriers at the earliest stage.”

Following the vandalism to their shed, Andy is hoping the KIM 4 HIM project could utilise an ISO container for use at their hub in Holywell. If you can help please contact: Tel: 01352 872189 / email: