Befriend a Child was a runner up and won £500 of good Neighbour funding during our 2016 campaign.
What is Befriend a Child?
Befriend a Child supports children and young people growing up in difficult circumstances and living at the margins of society across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to develop into confident adults and reach their full potential. The children and young people Befriend a Child supports (aged 4½-16) may be facing a number of challenges in life, ranging from isolation, parental drug and alcohol misuse, violence, bereavement, and the breakup of relationships.
This organisation is the ultimate example of a ‘Good Neighbour’ programme as their core service is a 1 to 1 befriending/mentoring service, whereby people in the community volunteer to be a good role model in a child or young person’s life by taking them out twice a month, for a minimum of a year, to take part in activities aimed at building their confidence and self-esteem and that would not otherwise be available to them. Activities may range from visiting a historic landmark or attending a local football match to a simple walk along the beach or picnic in the park.
For 40 years, the charity has recorded and measured the positive changes in the children they’ve supported, demonstrating progress in self-esteem, resilience and socialisation. They are now supporting over 300 children and young people each year through befriending and mentoring, as well as operating weekly youth clubs, school holiday play schemes, and a ‘grandparents as parents’ support group for those grandparents taking on the full time parenting role for their grandchildren.
Befriend a Child is truly a community-led organisation as all of their work is delivered with the help of specially-screened, trained and committed volunteers, which many of the young people supported by the project have identified as being meaningful to them since they are willingly giving up their time to show they care (as opposed to being paid, like teachers or social workers). Many formerly supported adults have attributed their success in life to their Befriender, stating ‘they probably would have ended up in jail or on drugs if it hadn’t been for their Befriender’. In another case, their Befriender had ‘made them into the man they are today’ and that ‘many of their fondest childhood memories are of their time with their Befriender.’
Why should Befriend a Child receive a donation from the Good Neighbour programme?
The charity sector in Aberdeen is currently being hit on 2 fronts, with both the downturn in oil and gas having an impact on corporate fundraising, and planned council cuts having an impact on funding across the sector. As programmes are wound down in other charities or through the council, Befriend a Child has been inundated with referrals for children and young people in need of a positive role model. For example, when the local ‘young carers’ service was closed, Befriend a Child started receiving a number of referrals for young people mentor. In 2014-15, Befriend a Child received 197 new referrals, an increase of 64 (48%) on the previous year. With an average of 16 new referrals a month (up from 10 per month the previous year) and a waiting list of 82 children, it is putting a strain on resources.
What could Befriend a Child use the money for?
Befriend a Child offers volunteers an allowance of £40 per month and travel expenses to support the children and young people referred to their service through befriending and mentoring on bi-weekly outings and activities. An award of £2,000 would fund a full year of activities for 4 children and/or young people, making a long-lasting impact on their lives and offering much needed support and guidance missing.
We know that many of the youngsters supported by Befriend a Child have never visited the beach, despite living within 5 miles of it; many have never been taught to tie their shoes, never taken public transport and/or don’t know how to eat with a knife and fork. It is difficult to imagine in today’s society, and by awarding Befriend a Child £2,000, these children and young people could learn basic skills and experience activities that most people would take for granted.
Not only that, but funding would help them develop the confidence to try new things and the self-esteem to raise their aspirations in life. It would also support the 300 volunteers at Befriend a Child who give up their time to make a difference to these children and young people’s futures and to their community.