What’s the best way to spend a (mostly) sunny day during the Scottish summertime? Having a bar-b-que and plenty of fun in the park is high on my list!
This is exactly what families from the Big Hearts kinship care programme did on Thursday 9th August at Vogrie Country Park, just outside Edinburgh. The scorching summer weather might have been threatening to end across the UK, but it held just long enough to provide perfect summer bar-b-que conditions there.
The day started with a trip to the playground, where staff, children and carers practiced their balancing skills and worked up an appetite before lunch:
Then it was time to wander back to bar-b-que base and get in line for some tasty burgers (and roasted marshmallows!):
After a delicious burger (or two), staff, carers and kids all got stuck in to some game playing. There was the chance to hone skills at tin-can alley:
Stack-o-blocks were put to some new uses:
Carers and kids got in to some serious Swingball:
There was even the chance for some woodland adventure!
Of course, none of this discounted the opportunity to sit back, relax and simply digest.
The Big Hearts bar-b-que happens annually, but because I’ve just joined the Mentor team in Edinburgh as Policy and Communications officer, this was the first time I got to join in the fun. It was an opportunity to meet Mentor’s partners at Big Hearts, get to know the Mentor staff a little bit better and spend time with children and carers who participate in the Big Hearts kinship care programme. It was a brilliant day, not least because I got to brush up on my skills playing ‘tag’ and ‘duck, duck, goose’.
What I discovered was that events like this one are a great chance for kinship care families to come together for a fun day out. As one carer pointed out to me, these kinds of opportunities are especially important for families like his, because he and his grandkids don’t always get to spend time relaxing in ways that other families do. Being able to go to a summer bar-b-q and just spend time with other people who know what you’re going through counts for that much more because of this.
Most importantly, the kinship care programme and events like these give children in kinship care added emotional support. As one of Mentor’s Families Together workers explained to me, being surrounded by other children who are also cared for by family members can lead to an all-important ‘Aha!’ moment for children in kinship care. The lightbulb goes on as they look around them and realise they’re not alone; they’re not that different from other kids their age after all.
This can help bring children who may be feeling isolated out of their shell. As one grandfather said, his grandson had been in two minds about wanting to come to the bar-b-q that morning. As soon as he arrived, however, “he was off!” It was great for his grandfather to see him having fun and playing with other kids outside, rather than on the computer in his room by himself.
Being new to Mentor, this was the first time all of this had really been brought home for me. It was my first chance to connect the dots around the important work that Mentor and its partners do in protecting children and young people from drugs and alcohol and to see prevention in action. I can’t wait to learn more.