THE Scottish Minister for Children and Young People visited the Borders on Monday.
Biggar-based MSP Aileen Campbell was viewing the work of Borders befriending charity, Interest Link, in Hawick.
The charity’s Val Reilly said: “The minister was very chatty and interested in what was going on, and joined in very happily. Our aim is to make the group as much like a mainstream youth group as possible, and it very much felt like that last night”.
The minister joined the charity’s Hawick children’s group – which receives Scottish Government funding – at work on an art and drama project, with some from the charity’s older members. She spent an hour with the 10 to 26-year-olds who have learning difficulties and their peer mentors, and took part in activities.
Interest Link project coordinator Andrew Findlay said: “The aim is for the group to be as close as possible to a normal mainstream youth group. There would normally be no chance for our children and young people with learning disabilities to attend a youth or drama group, or socialise with non-disabled peers, so being in our groups has an enormous impact on their quality of life, confidence and self-esteem, as well as their social and communication skills.”
Groups organise activities, projects, and social outings which are fun and help develop communication and social skills said Mr Findlay.
The art and drama project Ms Campbell witnessed is running for 12 weeks, under the direction of Ms Reilly, art tutor Amy Neville and drama leader Lesley Parris, and the end results will be staged at the Heart of Hawick theatre on December 3.
Mr Findlay said: “The group has been working on songs and the script, and on the night of the minister’s visit were working on the art side of the project, making costumes, back drops, and props for the show.”
The eight peer mentors involved in Monday night’s project were recruited from Hawick, Jedburgh and Earlston High Schools, and Borders College.