First stop – Glasgow; or more specifically, the offices of Glasgow City Council, where we met with Donna Cunningham, Skills and Aspirations Lead Officer in the Education Department.
Donna described the issues facing young people in the city, many of whom through no fault of their own do not have stable home lives and lack the opportunities many of us take for granted. She shared with us some of the things the city council and local charities are doing to help. These include the co-ordination of agencies, activities in term time and during the school holidays, and an intergenerational mentoring scheme.
From there it was a short ride to the first of our charity visits at Fuse Youth Café in Shettleston, in the east end of Glasgow, home of the worst life expectancy rates in Europe – an average of just 63 years.
We were joined on the visit by six of our supporters: Gaynor Gillespie from Capital & Regional (Gaynor is also a member of our Grants Committee), Tony Rosenthal and Louise Wallis from Gerald Eve, Sandra Kilmichael and Isabel Trainer from Clyde Shopping Centre and Helical Bar, and Caroline Henderson from Bellenden. Gerry Baldwin, Fuse CEO, gave us a tour of the premises.
Fuse started in 2009, when a derelict pub on a busy road was converted into a youth centre. There, local young people receive advice on managing personal finances, health and fitness, personal development and (anti)social behaviour. A LandAid grant will part-fund a large new build extension to the rear of the charity’s premises. The extension maximises space available, and uses natural light and ventilation. Measures to significantly improve energy use in the whole building will also be put in place.
At the visit, the architects – Collective Architecture – described the project, costs and timescales. Tenders were returned in late May, and the charity is negotiating with the preferred contractor, and also fundraising for a funding gap of £30,000. As soon as this is secured the construction work will start – ideally in late July 2014, with completion scheduled for mid-January 2015.
Our supporters were hugely impressed with the current set up and crucial work of Fuse. They agreed that the grant-funded project would vastly improve the building’s facilities, enabling the charity to meet growing demand. The visitors suggested Fuse commission an asset valuation of the current building, and also the building with the proposed improvements. At the visit, Gerald Eve offered to undertake this before and after’ valuation work pro bono. The LandAid visitors made useful suggestions for other potential funding sources, such as the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games legacy organisation. As Fuse is situated right by the East End games venues, it will continue to assist local young people on issues such as sport, fitness and health and well-being, long after the Games have ended.
From there we travelled on to another LandAid funded project, CHAP in Kilmarnock. Director of Services Susan Carson and Project Co-ordinator Tracey Tait showed us the three properties in which an innovative three year project is supporting those at risk of homelessness in the local area.
CHAP have grown increasingly frustrated by a situation where many young people find themselves unable to move on into employment and to manage their own tenancies. CHAP created the LandAid-funded project specifically to address this. A dedicated co-ordinator supports six young people who live in pairs in each of the three houses. All the young people have stable lifestyles, and want to be able to live independently. As project co-ordinator, Tracey takes a kind of parental role, giving advice on form filling for bank accounts and housing benefit, basic DIY, housekeeping, laundry, cooking and menu planning and budgeting. Since the first tenant moved into the first property in December 2013, progress has been steady and beyond initial expectations.
During our visit, the young people at CHAP described how the project has changed their lives:
‘I used to be depressed and did not want to get out of bed. I was not speaking to my Mum. Tracey helped me sort things out. I have now applied for college and I volunteer with a local church group. I got a job, which I start in July. I just started walking round to my Mum’s, maybe about one time a week, and we get on much better now.’
‘This saved me from going to stay in the local homeless hostel, there are bad influences there. I got help from Tracey with cooking. I learnt how to do some decorating and painted the house. I applied to work for the Edinburgh Tattoo as part of the army group, and I got the job for this summer. I am really excited, watch out for me on telly. After that I am going to apply for the army.’
Susan said: ‘The project is about survival for these young people, and then it is about getting a job and living independently. The project can help them change their lives and a key part of it is to build up their self-esteem. Many have had difficult lives, and deserve the chance of a more positive future. ‘
One of many worthwhile and life changing projects that LandAid is proud to support. An enlightening day for us and the LandAid supporters who joined us.