Dec 172015
Befriend a Child photofeat

A volunteer befriender and a youngster enjoying some time together.

With thanks to Eoin Smith.

Aberdeen may have a reputation for being one of the wealthiest cities in Scotland but for many children the daily reality is a troubled family life with drug and alcohol misuse, physical abuse and neglect.

The charity Befriend A Child struggles to meet the demand for its service supporting underprivileged and vulnerable children living in the Granite City – but thanks to a windfall of £17,203 from Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation, it is now able to reach out to help more children in need.

Last year, the service supported over 300 children but with referrals coming from primary and secondary schools, medical practices, family centres and criminal justice system, in addition to social services, demand for places has shot up, stretching the charity’s financial capability and expanding its waiting list to more than 50 children.

After receiving the biggest single donation from Aberdeen Asset Management’s charity pot this year, an additional 32 children are benefiting from a one-to-one befriending relationship with an adult volunteer who will work with them over the course of a year to build positive childhood memories through a range of experiences.

Despite its image of affluence and wealth, statistics published in October show that 18% of children in Aberdeen are on the child poverty index. As a result of their living conditions and environment, these children often suffer from low self-esteem, behavioural problems, poor communication and social skills and statistically under-achieve academically.

Befriend A Child enables children, aged between 4 and 16, to benefit from a positive adult role model with whom they share activities in a safe and neutral environment to help build confidence and self-esteem. This also reduces social isolation as well as providing opportunities to develop new life skills and interests while reducing exposure to drug and alcohol misuse and domestic violence in the family home.

Volunteer befrienders meet with their matched child on a fortnightly basis and spend 3-4 hours at a time enjoying a wide range of activities based on the interests of the children, such as attending football matches, going for a walk along the beach, swimming or reading a book together.

Evaluation shows positive outcomes, with children in a befriending relationship gaining greater confidence and improved self-esteem through being given the opportunity to take part in childhood activities previously denied to them. This, in turn, helps them to fulfil their potential, letting them see the alternative lifestyle they can achieve.

Feedback from parents is positive too: 25% noted an increase in their child’s confidence; 53% said their child was happier and 56% said their child’s self-esteem had improved at the end of a year’s befriending.

This year, one former volunteer befriender was contacted by the young boy she had befriended over 20 years earlier and who is now a grown man. He got in touch with her by email to express his gratitude for her kindness, patience and warmth saying it had a positive impact on his life.

The man, now in his 30s, said:

“Things have changed slightly since we last met! I’m now in a steady job… working in the oil and gas sector and living in Bangkok at the moment. I just wanted to say thank you for the time you gave me from your own life. When I look back on my childhood, the most prominent memories are the times I spent with you. The swimming, baking in your apartment, your smile, kindness and good nature are still very memorable to me.

“I hope you’re doing well at your end and you’re living a very happy life. People like yourself are few and far (between), deserving the best life has to offer. Thank you for every second of your time, you helped shape me into the man I have become, and yet to become!”

Befriend A Child is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015 and the donation from Aberdeen Asset Management to support 32 new one-to-one befriending relationships for a year will cover the cost of outings, travel expenses and collecting children and taking them back home.

Lana Bambridge, resources and development manager for Befriend A Child said:

“This donation from the Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation will have a significant impact on children and young people across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire who are growing up in difficult circumstances and in need of a positive role model. As we strive to help these children realise their full potential in life, we are extremely grateful for this generous donation.”

Dominic Kite of Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation said:

“This is the biggest single donation awarded from our Charitable Foundation in 2015. It recognises the value of the work undertaken by Befriend A Child in Aberdeen and the surrounding area, and goes some way to helping the charity meet the continuing need to provide befriending support for an increasing number of children in the community who are referred to the service.”

The Aberdeen Asset Charitable Foundation seeks to give back to areas which are a key strategic focus of the business and to build on the historic pattern of giving to communities in which Aberdeen employees live and work. The Foundation seeks partnerships with smaller charities around the world, where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact and the firm encourages its employees to use their time and skills to support its charitable projects.

Other Scottish projects to benefit from Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation in the past 12 months include:

Aberdeen and North-east Scotland – Cash For Kids Appeal to provide winter clothing for disadvantaged children in Aberdeen; The Teapot Trust’s open group art therapy for kids with chronic illness at the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital; Simeon Care Home for the Elderly towards the purchase of furnishings for its new care home; St Andrew’s Children’s Society in support of its work to find potential adoptive parents in the North-east and Rape And Abuse Support Aberdeen for a new support group for survivors of childhood rape and abuse.

Edinburgh – HopScotch which enabled disadvantaged young people living in Edinburgh the chance to go on inspiring and fun respite break in the Highlands;  the Lothian Autistic Society to support a fun and friendship project; The Open Door Edinburgh assisting those living with mental health problems and the elderly; Venture Scotland to help disadvantaged young people turn their lives around through its Journey Programme; YMCA Edinburgh in support of its PlusOne Mentoring programme for 8-14 year olds at risk of offending and The National Deaf Children’s Society to run a weekend get together for families of deaf children.

National – Medicinema cinema screenings at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow and Clan Childlaw Limited to help every young person in Scotland gain access to legal advice.

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