For six decades, the Brothers of Charity has provided support to individuals with learning disabilities and other needs living in the Borders.
To mark this 60th anniversary, Brothers of Charity Services (Scotland) held a garden party at Selkirk Rugby Club earlier this month, which was attended by over 130 guests. The pleasant weather added to the relaxed atmosphere, with everyone enjoying the opportunity to meet and chat over afternoon tea, take part in games, appreciate music and view a display of art and craft work and achievements attained by individuals.
The Brothers of Charity is a Christian organisation which supports people from all faith communities, as well as those with no religious beliefs.
In his welcome address, Brother Alfred Hassett, chair of the organisation’s board of trustees, thanked those who use the organisation’s services and emphasised they were its reason for being and continually inspire it to change and develop.
He also paid tribute to the contribution of all those associated with the organisation locally over the years, and in particular complimented staff for the way their daily work bears witness to the mission of the Brothers of Charity and exemplifies the core values of respect for the person, as well as the importance placed on quality of relationship between the person receiving and the person providing support.
He also acknowledged appreciation of sustained positive links with the statutory authorities, which have enabled the organisation to improve and develop the services offered to people in the Borders over the years.
The organisation was founded in Belgium in 1807 and today is active in over 30 countries around the world.
In 1955 its services in Scotland moved from Gorebridge to the larger premises of Gattonside House, which became home for 70 men, supported by brothers and a small number of lay staff.
Present at the garden party were individuals who recall the early days of the organisation’s services in the Borders, including the move from Gorebridge.
The Brothers were among those at the forefront of moving from care delivered in large institutional settings to community-based residential support in ordinary housing, and the 1980s saw people established in new homes in the towns and villages of the central Borders, and in nursing home accommodation in the grounds of Gattonside House, including many of the ladies who had formerly lived at Balnakiel.
The main building at Gattonside became an administrative base and day support developed towards more community-based opportunities and a focus on helping people gain skills towards employment. In 2003, there was another major transformation, from residential care to supported living, with the organisation’s Together Borders service established to support individuals in their own homes.
Over the years the number of staff has increased considerably to provide the personalised support needed by individuals, and likewise investment in training for staff has grown.
The organisation now employs just under 300 people in the Borders.
In 2007, the organisation’s headquarters moved from Gattonside to its current location at Triest House in the Galabank Business Park in Galashiels.
Triest House is named after the organisation’s founder, Canon Peter Joseph Triest.
Then, two years later, a redesign of the nursing home service was completed, with the development of a smaller care home service at Garden Villa, accommodating six people, with provision for individuals to use the service for short breaks.
New housing was also developed in the grounds of the walled garden at St Aidan’s Court, offering the opportunity for more individuals to benefit from supported living.
Then last year saw the development of the Working Together social enterprises, Breadworks and Greenworks, operating from their base at Tweedbank.
These initiatives provide training and work experience towards employment, and the enterprise teams and trainees were delighted to receive recognition by winning the Social Enterprises award in last year’s Scottish Borders Business Diversity awards.
Celebrations for this special year will continue later in the summer with a walk commemorating the move from Gorebridge to Gattonside.
Charmian Ledsham, director of care and support at Brothers of Charity, told The Southern this week: “A significant anniversary naturally makes us think about all the changes and progress that have taken place in services over the years, but above all reminds us that these have happened through people coming together, and sharing a commitment to making a difference, which is as important as ever for the future”.