***** MARCH 2018 *****
Our Peer-Support Employability project has grown quite a bit since our last post. We have a new Project Co-Ordinator, Rob Burns. Rob joined us in February 2018 and has got off to a flying start.
At the start of the year, the project took a group of participants to Scone Palace to work with the outdoor team to get the grounds and gardens ready for the year ahead. A new group are now working at the RSPB at Loch Lomond. They are working with staff and volunteers at the centre to improve the woodland paths, bird nesting areas and supporting the local wildlife to thrive.
To read more about the current course and all the past courses that we have supported young people to build new skills in, please take time to read our programme booklet.
Peer-Support Employability project booklet
***** JANUARY 2016 *****
Our Peer-Mentoring Project
Almost one year ago now we received grants from Young Start and Comic Relief for an exciting opportunity: to build upon our previous 6-month Volunteer Project with Voluntary Action Fund. With the brief of peer mentoring young adults with learning disabilities with volunteering, we were to develop confidence and skills, improve emotional, physical and mental health, and better prepare them for employment. Being the lucky person appointed to co-ordinate the project, we have now reached the halfway point – in the hope that Young Start will extend their grant for the second year, based on current progress. Well, let me tell you about all that has progressed before now…!
We began small, with a few volunteers visiting Rosturk House care home each week to spend time with some lovely (and some bossy!) elderly residents, playing card games, Dominoes and knitting. We had fun getting to know their histories, learn new games, overcoming challenges of understanding one another.
The Green Team
Around this time, supported by Options In Life staff, another group of new recruits joined the pre-existing weekly Green Team up at Cambo Estate, Kingsbarns.
Working in the Woods at Cambo
Learning to work excellently together and diligently braving the elements, these guys tidy up the woodland areas for public access.
Short courses were achieved in Elementary Food Hygiene (REHIS-accredited) and Employability Skills, in which they worked in pairs to construct an egg-transporter to travel floor to ceiling without breaking (the floor stayed clean!), identified their strengths and developed a CV.
Grooming on the Pony Care course
Outdoor life continued for another group at the Scottish Equestrian Centre, where a few more experienced individuals helped their peers with basic pony handling skills: assisting in leading, grooming and tacking up a pony, tidying up the yard and identifying horse colours.
Cleaning out the stables
Those who already had the skills developed their ability to lead and teach others. They all later received SQA awards in their equestrian achievements, taught by the lovely Bertie Dixon, North Highland College.
Finally (as I said, thus far)
Filling Pot holes
a group led by Heidi Luke has made a superb effort in helping to improve facilities at Muddy Boots Farm, Cupar.
A busy day at Muddy Boots
They have painted walls of play areas, weeded the land, filled in car park potholes, fed chickens, held baby guinea pigs and even made their own apple juice!
This group for the moment has come to an end, but talks are in progress to hopefully make it a long-term fixture, as it has been such a great success – many thanks owed to Heidi!
In summary, this project has – in my opinion – been a fantastic success story. We have welcomed many new members to the Options In Life family and provided a vast variety of opportunities for people to learn new skills and develop their confidence, both in helping and communicating with others, attain certificates and improve prospects for employment. There are more exciting plans in the pipeline for the next year, but more on that later…!
Ashley Cochrane | Volunteer Project Co-ordinator
***** FEBRUARY 2014 *****
In February 2014 we completed a 6-month project, funded by Voluntary Action Fund, to mentor people with learning disabilities to support others. This was a fantastic success in our eyes, as many of the volunteers reported having grown in confidence and self esteem by the end of the 6 months, felt more confident in their workplace and became more assertive in leading others.
Their role was to keep an eye on those in their group, make staff aware of any issues that cropped up, help collect in money at the start of the day, and help out with any other tasks throughout the day. For example, at Edinburgh International Climbing Arena everyone needs to change into climbing shoes, helmet and harness – group leaders help to organise everyone into finding the right shoe size, lacing them up (if they can or need to) and helping each other into a harness and helmet (secured by staff and instructors). Whilst participating in the activity, they cheer their group members on, help each other find courage to climb the walls and find each foothold, then prompt on how to come back down, having gained the skills themselves.
Volunteers who chose to also attended additional training in the evenings, including a ‘Venture Into Volunteering’ course of workshops (delivered by a Fife Voluntary Action representative) explaining fully what volunteering involves (health & safety awareness, role, boundaries and responsibilities, confidentiality of others) and preparation towards employment or more permanent volunteering. A few also passed a First Aid ‘Appointed Person’ course, giving them first aider ID cards, which they were very proud of. As a result of all their volunteering, they received Saltire Approach Awards to recognise their efforts, with an article commemorating this submitted to local papers (a link to be uploaded once published).
And even though the project came to an end, most of
them chose to continue taking on the responsibility of looking after their peers, just because they enjoy it and get a bit more out of the weekly activities as a result. We are very proud of them and what they gave to the project.