Children's and Young People's Project
A story by Interest Link Borders
We provided 1:1 and group friendships for children and young people with learning disabilities living in the Scottish Borders. These included a wide variety of activities such as drama and film projects and overnight trips.
This improved their quality of life and gave their family carers the chance to enjoy a life outside of their caring role. The service was delivered entirely by volunteers, most of whom were aged 16-18.
What Children's and Young People's Project did
Services and activities have been as planned. There have been 31 1:1 friendships and 65 in groups. These have involved a total of 83 children and young people aged 8-20. Almost all the volunteers were also children and young people recruited mainly from local High Schools and Borders College this enabled us to create real equal friendships.
1:1 links met weekly, fortnightly or monthly for a variety of community activities such as playing football in the park, going to cafe's, playing pool and shopping. Others were more ambitious outings to the Mining Museum, Farm visit to see lambs, plays at The Heart of Hawick, and a trip to Edinburgh to see Annie. When younger school-age volunteers are involved, they often meet at the child’s home and play games, watch DVDs, draw, listen to music, walk the dog or do some cooking.
Twelve befriending groups met fortnightly in Kelso, Hawick, Galashiels and Peebles. They did a mixture of activities such as art and crafts, baking, scrapbooking, music & games evenings, Murder Mystery/Cluedo evenings, pottery-making, going to the cinema, tennis, badminton and table tennis.
Sometimes they did more focused projects over several weeks with the help of external tutors for example, 6 films were made, two straightforward drama projects, a combined art/film project producing graffiti art canvases and stop-animations and three using green screens and animation in a variety of ways. These were then premiered publicly in front of family and friends and will appear on our website shortly.
We have continued a regular Wild Play programme with Anna Craigen at outdoor venues and woodlands across the Borders, three groups went on overnight trips to Edinburgh or local camping sites. Reports of these can be found on the Interest Link Borders Website.
Carers did a wide variety of activities such as taking the time to give attention to siblings, meeting up with other Interest Link carers, rebuilding their own community connections, doing evening classes, relaxing and take stock. Several also sat on our branch committees and Board.
Sarah and Jenny are great fun to catch up with and have been an inspiration. They are always enthusiastic, fun loving and genuinely excited to plan their visits out in advance. Jenny has gained more confidence and takes on board any advice or guidance that Sarah is willing to offer. Jenny is very independent and is grateful for any positive input that may influence or allow her to make good decisions in her life, as she moves from her teenage years into adulthood.
When asked Jenny what she thought about her time out with Sarah she replied. “She is the best person I have ever met”
Initially he was linked 1-1 with a peer mentor who he instantly liked and increasingly trusted. She has since left for university but still visits him from time to time and sends him cards. One and a half years ago he also joined our children's group and slowly began to open up starting to speak more and particularly enjoying the company of a couple of the young peer mentors and of course, the fun activities.
His mum has explained that he doesn’t have any friends who he sees out of school and that he always enjoys coming to the groups often asking when they are on next. She says that he has grown hugely in confidence and in his ability to speak over the period because of being in the group. To everyone’s’ delight he now initiates conversation himself, asks questions of others and is quite a giggler. He joins our activities whole-heartedly, he loved our bushcraft sessions in the woods, makes great effort to dress for our fancy dress parties and other events, is proud of what he makes during our art & crafts activities and fully participates in the (sometimes very!) noisy group games we play.
His mum says he tells his family all about what he has been doing when he gets home and that ‘he is so much happier than he used to be’.
Anne (Andrew’s mum) says “I'd say we find the service provided by Interest Link a valuable part of involving Andrew into a group where he feels equal. He looks forward to different activities and meeting new people in a safe environment. The time out it gives Andrew away from his younger siblings is a blessing as he comes home happy and full of enthusiasm. As a parent the time he spends at the group also gives us a little break from each other which is very much needed to help defuse the stresses involved with being a carer for a child with a learning disability.”
Louise enjoyed the freedom of choice that this opportunity offered. The Peer Mentors during training were supported to understand the importance of this decision and allowed them to grow in confidence, as they started to gain the assertive skills to cope with a child with concentration difficulties. As the months went on Louise realised that she didn’t have to shout or earn the attention from Peer Mentors but by relaxing and believing in herself she would be accepted for who she really was.
3 years on Louise has grown with the group. She has become a confident and gentle individual who is relaxed and comfortable in her own skin. She now realises that by chilling and relaxing with the female volunteers in the group that she looks up to, she is now accepted and liked and can enjoy the valuable time she spends with them. She also has the added bonus of being recognised at High School and the Peer Mentors now ask her how her day is going.
The Peer Mentors are able to understand the difficulties experienced by a child such as Louise, they have now managed to learn the right strategies enabling them to cope more effectively. This has only been achievable by having the opportunity to experience this through practical situations they have been exposed to in the Roxburgh Children’s Group.
What Interest Link Borders has learnedWe learnt much on a practical level from our first three overnight trips, ranged from the obvious ( that camping in September is cold, even in a glamping hut, and project staff don’t tend to get much sleep) to the complexities of organising personal care.
We found the groups loved the overnights and that carers really appreciated the extended respite: one carer said it was the first proper late-night evening out she had had in 16 years.
We discovered there was much more to be done in a film project than a straightforward drama production, stop animations, green screens and video diaries all feature heavily in this year’s crop of videos.