Falkirk Council received £ 433,000 from the Scottish Government to set up its ‘Get into Summer’ program to provide activities for local young people, including children with disabilities, those who needed to protect themselves and families who already had problems. financial hardship, even before the virus hits.
And when the organizers talked to the young people about the kinds of things they would like to see, there was a very clear message about what would really make the difference.
“When we listen to what young people are telling us, transportation and the cost of transportation come up again and again,” said Sally Buchanan, Fairer Falkirk coordinator.
Their response was to give families who are entitled to free school meals a payment of £ 34 per child to help with travel costs during the holidays.
At £ 200,000, it was almost half the government grant, but Sally has no doubt it was money well spent.
“We have a great program of activities, but if people can’t afford to go, it’s kind of pointless,” she said.
She is also proud of the fact that there is such a wide range of free activities on offer that are worth checking out.
The money enabled the Falkirk Council to organize grants totaling 43 different summer projects run by community organizations across the district. These included free riding lessons for children with disabilities, fun days and even short breaks for some young people.
Several sports clubs in the district have also got involved – not only offering classes for children, but enabling older teens and young people to gain valuable coaching skills.
The money also allowed Falkirk Community Trust to more than double its usual summer offering – with everything from walking in the gorges and kayaking to tennis lessons and even dance lessons.
Cameron Reid, director of the Trust’s Active Schools, says the summer vacation program is always a special time of year – and even more so this year.
“This year we took our program apart and asked ‘how can we adapt this to make it as accessible to as many people as possible?” He explained.
The result was a program that included free pop-up sports festivals, meaning as many children as possible could get involved.
These sessions can be booked online and all local children are welcome.
They were also able to offer more outdoor learning, giving a taste of adventure through activities such as bushcraft skills and den making.
“These are things that can make a huge difference for a child and can actually change their life,” Sally said.
Importantly, the funding also meant that the Trust could give lunch bags to each participating child – and they make sure that if a child wants to take extra food home, they can do so without a problem.
“We’re always talking about how we make things ‘stigma free,’ Cameron said.
“Children shouldn’t know they are poor just because of the way we run our program. “
Not all the money funded organized activities – some older teens received swim passes, while others got movie tickets to the Hippodrome, including popcorn.
It was a colossal effort that Sally says built on the relationships with community groups that grew stronger during the pandemic.
“I am so grateful to our partners and community groups for the way they responded and I really hope it will make a difference for people,” said Sally.
“What’s great for us is when all the coaches and volunteers start to get feedback on what they’ve heard,” Cameron said.
“It’s probably the team’s favorite part of the year – they love playing sports and they love working with the kids, but that’s when we realize the impact it can have on individuals and this is even more the case this year. “