Aug 312012

Four Total E&P UK Limited graduates will today unveil to their colleagues Le Tour de Deeside, a fundraiser in aid of VSA’s Easter Anguston Farm, a Peterculter-based visitor attraction that offers training and support to adults with learning difficulties. With thanks to Claire McBain.

Easter Anguston Farm, run by VSA, will benefit from the takings at an adult and family cycle event on Sunday 30 September 2012.

Graduate engineers Louise Reid, 25, from Aberdeen, Jamie Kirkwood, 25, from Fraserburgh, Steven Grzywa, 26, from Portlethen and Drew Annand, 26, from Brechin have organised and will host the event for TEP UK employees, family and friends to mark the end of their graduate scheme.

Le Tour de Deeside will comprise a team cycle race along the Deeside Way, with integrated Olympic-themed challenges.

Funds will be raised from entry fees, tomorrow’s internal coffee morning at TEP UK – when the Le Tour de Deeside is unveiled and its family fun day in September.  Louise, Jamie, Steven and Drew will also volunteer at the farm.

Louise Reid, graduate process engineer at Total, said:

“VSA stood out to us because we knew the money we raised would make a difference close to home.  We wanted to see the results.  It had to be a project we’d be interested in as young adults and a story people attending our event could identify with. 

“Easter Anguston Farm fits the bill perfectly.  We’ll physically see our funds in use and can push the project on by donating our own time.

“I’m so excited to be part of this.  I can’t wait to meet the service users and understand what the farm means to them.  Knowing our efforts will directly benefit them is a real motivator.  I want to raise awareness of VSA within TEP UK and inspire others to follow in our footsteps.”

Fiona Davidson, farm operations manager, said:

“We’re so grateful to be the chosen charity.  I’m positive we’re giving them something back too.  This project will force them to pull together to become short-term experts in something they’d never face in day-to-day employment.  Not to mention the skills they’ll develop with fundraising, event organisation and meeting our service users. 

“We’re also so thankful to Total.  Corporate matching is a great initiative and will give this project a big boost.”

“When they visited, we decided revamping the pond would match their estimated funds and time available.  I’m working on a major development of the farm and this was one of my initial targets. 

“Making areas like this more attractive is so important.  We don’t want Easter Anguston to just be a working farm.  It’s becoming an attraction where the family can spend a whole day.”

For more information about Easter Anguston Farm contact Fiona Davidson on 01224 733627.

Le Tour de Deeside will take place on Sunday 30 December from 12noon.  Teams will register at the Robert Gordon University Business School, Garthdee, where a barbecue will follow afterwards. 

For further information, photographs or to arrange interviews, please contact Claire McBain on 01224 358611 or 07808768530 or e-mail

Aug 242012

With thanks to Claire McBain. 

To mark World Photography Day on Sunday 19th August, Scott Hogg, of Aberdeen’s Scott Hogg Photography, has listed one of his popular services – a professional portrait sitting and complimentary box frame print – on an eBay auction.
This is being done in aid of Friends for Life clubs, part of VSA, the UK’s largest city social care charity which supports people in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

Scott, a three-time finalist in the 2012 Fuji Awards wedding category, is hoping to ignite passion in big-hearted Aberdonians, encouraging them to bid well above the normal retail price of £275 and boost the Friends for Life fund.

Friends for Life, the only service of its kind in Aberdeen, is an informal weekly youth club for children with additional support needs who would find it difficult, if not impossible, to integrate into mainstream clubs.  Four clubs support 80 children at one time.

Scott, who owns Scott Hogg Photography, said:

“I’m determined to beat last year’s figure and raise a big sum for Friends for Life.  These clubs are an important local institution.  Many children with additional support needs can’t integrate into mainstream clubs due to staff numbers, noise and other restrictions caused by their condition.  But they’re still kids.  They need somewhere to make friends, be themselves and, most of all, have fun. 

“I hope people in Aberdeen and the shire will generously demonstrate their support for VSA’s Friends for Life clubs by pushing up the auction, and final, price.”

After raising money in the same way for a Filipino orphanage in 2011, Scott is making his charitable efforts an annual occurrence:

“This year”, he says, “I wanted to do something closer to home. 

“VSA provide more than 30 local services across education, older people’s services and social care and wellbeing but Friends for Life is a cause close to my heart.”

Elaine Michael, a day care manager who runs the Friends for Life club said:

“We create special lifelong bonds between like-minded children.  But to add this bit of sparkle to their lives and cover the running costs of the clubs, £50,000 per year is required, entirely from trusts, grants and fundraising.  Money raised by people like Scott helps us get children involved in activities they may miss out on in mainstream clubs.”

Friends for Life often receives letters of support from parents and carers.  For example, a former member who is now a volunteer wrote:

“I always looked forward to the club.  It was great having friends. “The staff were more like friends than adults.” 

Or, as the mother of one boy with autism and learning difficulties recorded:

“The club is the highlight of his week.”

As Elaine went on to say:

“We must keep providing these excellent experiences and, with the help of Scott and others like him, we’re in a better position to do so.”

The auction item is for a sitting, worth £50, and 20 x 16 inch box, worth £225.

Scott’s eBay listing can be viewed at

  • More information on World Photography Day can be found at
  • For more information about VSA, for photographs, or to arrange an interview, please contact Claire McBain on 01224 358611 or e-mail her at
Jul 202012

Local voluntary organisation Access To Training And Employment will hold their Annual General Meeting next Friday.  Co-chair Jonathan Russell tells Voice readers more about the event and the project which aims to create opportunities for people with disabilities.

The group’s AGM will take place at 2.30pm on 27th July, at the Hamilton School on Queens Road.  Guest speaker Dave Simmers, chief executive of Community Food Initiatives, North East, will present a talk on social enterprises.  There will also be talks on Crafty Things, Café Cairncry, and Neat Ideas, led by office bearers of these projects

Access to Training and Employment became a voluntary organisation in 1998 and its prime objective is to promote and support people with disabilities in the Aberdeen area in training and employment.

Access to Training and Employment is a user led organisation with the majority of people on its management committee having a learning and/or physical disability.

Acting on needs identified by the membership, Access to Training and Employment became the lead organisation in developing a number of exciting and innovative projects.

In 2009 we considerably downsized due to cutbacks and the ending of partnerships with Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeen College.


Over the past year we have developed a particularly constructive partnership with private sector organisation AMEC, which will help us in having a more secure base on which to build.

We are presently running the following three projects:


This is a joint venture between people with disabilities and volunteers, supported by qualified, experienced craft support workers, which is presently based at the Rubislaw Church centre.  Sewing skills are developed to a high standard and it gives participants a real work experience.

We produce high quality Tartan and Harris Tweed goods for sale in a variety of settings.  The signature product is our Scottie dog cushion which has proved very popular with the international community of Aberdeen.

We also produce a variety of Tartan and Tweed bags, all unique and very special products.  We are also moving into producing corsages and bow-ties.


Café Cairncry operates on Mondays in Cairncry Community Centre, serving a healthy lunch for some 20 to 25 senior citizens and other local people who either attend activities at the centre, or just go along for a companionable meal.

Four young adults with learning disabilities prepare and serve the meals, under the supervision of two paid support staff. They learn about health and safety issues relating to catering and are involved in all aspects of running the Café, which provides practical experience and scope for skills development, confidence building and varied social interaction.

The Café is a popular project with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.  It is much valued by the local community and, at times, the customers range in age from 4 to 80.  The project also provides training designed to enable young people with disabilities to move on to work in less ‘sheltered’ environments.


This project has started over the past year and aims at making a variety of specialised cards, both by hand and by the use of computers, which we will endeavour to sell at premises used by AMEC.  Individual skills have been identified and progressed and we have an excellent team of volunteers and trainees.

The project is based at Reach Out and we usually meet fortnightly at the Info Hub at Aberdeen Market

The Access To Training And Employment AGM is being held at Hamilton School, 55-57 Queens Road, Aberdeen, between 2.30pm and 4.00pm, on Friday 27th July, 2012.

Further information

Access To Training And Employment (Sco28228) – Patron Dame Anne Begg MP


Contact Jonathan Russell, Co-chair, on 01224 586435, or 07582 456233 and leave a telephone number, name and message.

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Jul 122012

Sparked by new nature trails and undiscovered woods, a local charity’s creative outdoor opportunities have been extended. With thanks to Claire McBain.

Although the official deadline for entries for the North East Open Studios 2012 gallery at VSA’s Easter Anguston Farm passed,  the farm has announced a new deadline of Friday July 27.  They also announced a boost to the space available in order to encourage local creatives to showcase their work and support the UK’s largest city social care charity.

Jane Bell, farm support worker and NEOS exhibitor, said:

“We’re thrilled to already have such an excellent response.  We’re lucky to have loyal Easter Anguston artists register for another year and we’ve attracted some very promising new faces too.  Although our gallery already boasts more entries than last year, we know there’s more local talent out there. 

“So we’ve opened up new parts of the farm, like Linn Moor wood, to create more exhibition space than we’ve had any other year.  Our new nature trail, created by Aberdeen Greenspace volunteers and Easter Anguston trainees, will be a brilliant exhibition space too. 

“We’ve also stretched the deadline by a few weeks, hoping to give those who have been weighed down with other responsibilities a chance to explore this opportunity.  For those who have been busy with end-of-term exhibitions, our gallery is a perfect outlet to extend their audience.”

“Most of the indoor space has been filled so our target artists are sculptors, ceramicists, 3D designers, land artists and others with durable outdoor exhibits.  We do have sheltered areas too, so delicate creations are very welcome.  We’re keen to work with artists to find something that suits their style and the environment they’ll be exhibiting in.  I can’t wait to explore more ideas.”

Local artist Alex Kay, who has been heavily involved with NEOS at Easter Anguston Farm over the past four years, said:

“Easter Anguston sets itself apart from other galleries by creating a unique link with art and the community.  Local creatives can showcase their work while raising awareness of the UK’s largest social care charity.  That’s what drives me to be there every year.” 

To find out more or get an application form for exhibiting at NEOS at Easter Anguston Farm, contact Claire McBain on 01224 358611 or email

Jun 222012

The Olympic Torch may have left the Granite City but this week an Aberdeen-based charity will recognise the worthy efforts of 25,000 unpaid carers who ‘carry a torch’ for someone who is ill, frail or disabled in the city and shire. With thanks to Claire McBain.

Aberdeen City Council, VSA’s Carers’ Service and NHS Grampian hosted an Olympic-themed celebratory lunch on 19th June to mark Carers Week 2012 and to honour the personalities behind Aberdeen’s thousands of hardworking and unpaid carers who metaphorically ‘carry a torch’ for a relative or friend.  Carers’ Week runs from 18th – 24th June, 2012.

VSA will also reach out to local carers with pop-up information stalls across the city, highlighting services that help balance vital caring roles with other commitments. 

A recent Carers’ Trust poll revealed that 60% of unpaid carers found their mental health was affected by their role.  Fittingly, the theme for this year’s Carers’ Week is In Sickness and Health.

Diane McCabe, Director of Social Care and Wellbeing at VSA, said:

“Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire carers deserve gold medals for their hard work.  There’s not just one local champion, they’re all our local heroes.

“By getting involved in Carers’ Week 2012, we can highlight and improve conditions for the 25,000 unpaid carers in Aberdeen city and shire, some suffering health and career problems as they try to look after sick or disabled relatives without help.

“We want to make life easier for these torchbearers and those they look after.”

According to Carers UK, there are nearly 6 million carers in the country.  The Scottish Household Survey, conducted by The Scottish Government in 2010 reported 657,300 carers north of the border, more than 25,000 of which live in Aberdeen City.  Within this, there are an estimated 2,240 Young Carers in Aberdeen and far more ‘hidden carers,’ both adult and child.

Diane continued:

“Many suffer due to a lack of understanding about what they do.  Some don’t even recognise themselves as carers.”

Christine Carle has used VSA’s Carers’ Services for more than 16 years.  When caring for her daughter with additional support needs, her son fell into the role of ‘mummy’s help.’  The Young Carers’ service, for her son, was her first contact with VSA.

She said:

“All children rely on their parents to look after them so you don’t realise you need the help.  You think it’s just part of ‘being mum.’  You just get on with it.

“I wouldn’t be where I am now without VSA’s Carers’ Service.  I’ve reached several milestones I didn’t think would be possible.  I’ve now got a job for the first time since my daughter was born.  Help and support makes such a difference to your own health.  The happier you are in yourself the better you are for looking after someone.

“It can be a big step picking up the phone, or walking through the door for the first time.  But I’d urge other carers to get in touch.  It will open so many doors.  It’s been a godsend to me.”

Christine’s son, a local councillor, is now 22.  Her daughter is 18 and, along with Christine, will continue to use VSA’s Carers’ Service for a long time.

Aberdeen Lord Provost George Adam, who was a speaker at the Olympic-themed lunch said:

“Carers are the unsung and unpaid heroes in our community.  All face different circumstances looking after relatives, loved ones and children who have needs that must be met in different ways.

“The two things they all have common are a selfless devotion to those they care for and determination to make lives as good as possible for the people who rely on them.

“We, as a city, can’t hold carers in a high enough regard.  It is vitally important that we raise awareness of the work they do and highlight the support and representation that is out there for them.”

For more information about Carers’ Week events visit

More information about VSA’s Carers Services, can be obtained by visiting their headquarters at 38 Castle Street, Aberdeen, calling them on 01224 212021, or visiting their website at  

Jun 072012

With thanks to VSA Fundraising Officer Claire McBain.

There will be something for everyone on Sunday (June 10) at Duthie Park between 10am and 4pm when the Celebrate Aberdeen weekend is rounded off with a huge family fun day.
Voluntary Services Aberdeen, the UK’s largest city social care charity supporting people in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, is preparing to say a big thank you to those who have volunteered over the past year with its biggest ever fun day.

VSA Day, the charity’s annual fun day at Duthie Park, Aberdeen, sponsored by CNR, was established in 2007 to celebrate and thank volunteers, staff and supporters who have made a difference over the year and to highlight the significant work of VSA in the local community.

Kenneth Simpson, chief executive at VSA, said:

“I’m delighted to be hosting VSA Day for the sixth time, especially given the big jump in size this year.  We’ve doubled our stallholder numbers and attracted more entertainment than ever.  Visitors can relax watching musicians, dancers and cheerleaders or get involved with military fitness, zumba and yoga. 

“Aberdeen Football Club will be on hand to give budding soccer stars a tutorial and, as usual, our funfair and face painters will be out in force.  Shoppers will be satisfied too, whether it’s delicious cakes, sparkly jewels or pocket money treats they’re after.

“Our staff are firmly behind VSA Day and we’ll have a healthy turnout of stalls headed by our services.  Easter Anguston Farm will bring their popular farm shop and plants into the city while Craigton Grove, a residential setting where twelve adults with learning disabilities live as independently as possible, is bringing Aberdeen back to its childhood with a day of old fashioned races, like the egg and spoon.

“We’ve had turnouts of thousands in past years and expect even more this time – not just because of our increased offering but with Celebrate Aberdeen hitting town the day before, VSA Day will be the perfect way to bring the feel-good weekend to a close.

Elaine Michael, day care manager, runs several VSA services that will be represented on the day.  She said:

“It’s a great opportunity for us to demonstrate what VSA is all about.  Each service can make their cause stand out and explain to the public exactly what they do. 

Our Friends for Life club, an informal weekly youth club creating bonds between like-minded children with additional support needs, will hold a sumo wrestling challenge and Maisie’s Children’s Centre staff are busy baking for their homebakes stall. 

Each year we have a walkathon too; a gentle challenge for both mainstream children and those with additional support needs.  This year we’re adding an extra ingredient of fun with a fancy dress option.

“VSA Day is an ideal occasion for people in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to have fun and support their local community at the same time.”

VSA is always looking for volunteers to help on the day.  VSA Day will be held on Sunday 10 June between 10am and 4pm at Duthie Park, Aberdeen.  Admission is free.  VSA, sponsored by Shore Porters, will also be part of Celebrate Aberdeen on Saturday 9 June.

For further information, photographs or to arrange an interview, please contact Claire McBain on 01224 358611 or e-mail

May 172012

Dave Macdermid has contacted Voice to invite members of the public to take part in this month’s gardening activities session organised by the Friends of Duthie Park.

It’s taking place this Sunday, 20th May, between noon and 2 pm, and volunteers will be preparing and sowing an area with grass seed beside the Riverside Drive entrance.

Anyone interested in helping should assemble at the David Welch Winter Gardens at noon.

Dress according to the weather conditions and bring a pair of gloves!