A charity providing a befriending service for children and young people with learning difficulties across the Borders has been thrown a cash lifeline of almost £83,000 to secure its future for the next three years.
Interest Link Borders faced uncertain times before news arrived this week that a funding bid to BBC Children in Need had been successful.
The £82,733 it has been awarded has ensured that the project’s bases in Hawick, Galashiels, Peebles and Duns can continue to support more than 80 children to form friendships with their peers and build up their self-confidence.
Andrew Findlay, project co-ordinator for Interest Link Borders, founded in 1990, said the grant is vital to the continuation of the charity’s work with children, with that money accounting for a quarter of its funding needs from now until 2022.
He said: “Without this funding, things could have been difficult. Without it, the project could have faced an uncertain future. We did need it, very definitely.
“This funding will allow us to support over 80 children and young people with learning disabilities and autism, and the important thing is that almost all the volunteers will also be of school age, which provides real peer friendship.
“That is something very different as most children’s befriending projects use adult volunteers.
“All of our members have a lifelong condition that affects their development, meaning they need more help to understand information, learn skills and live independently.
“Unfortunately, there aren’t many opportunities for these young people to join youth groups, which can leave them feeling isolated.
“Thanks to the funding from BBC Children in Need, we’re going to be able to offer them a safe, supportive and inclusive environment where they can have fun and make new friends, which is fantastic.”
Over three years, the funding will support children and young people from the age of eight to 18 with a range of learning disabilities at community hubs and schools by giving them access to a range of activities enabling them to make friends, learn new skills and develop their confidence.
The charity runs four in-school lunchtime groups at which children unable to attend evening meetings are befriended by high school pupils in Selkirk, Peebles, Hawick and Duns and younger children from Knowepark Primary School in Selkirk.
The grant is a share of the £58m raised by the 2018 Children in Need appeal on TV.
Florence Burke, impact senior manager for Scotland at BBC Children in Need, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be awarding funding to such brilliant charities and projects like Interest Link Borders, and I’m looking forward to seeing the difference that they will make to young lives in the community.
“I also want to say a huge thank-you to everyone who supported BBC Children in Need in 2018.
“Without your generosity, the amazing work that these charities and projects do in creating a brighter future for disadvantaged children and young people wouldn’t be possible.”
For more details, go to bbc.co.uk/pudsey/grants or www.interestlink.org.uk