Helping out the helpers

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We turn to them when we're in need - now is the chance to give something back. The Evening News has teamed up with the Charities Aid Foundation, as part of National Giving Week, to give local registered charities more support. We have £5000 to give to the five charities which win most votes from our readers. We've whittled down your original nominations to a shortlist of ten. To vote, call the number corresponding to the charity you want to see get the money. Calls cost 10p.

• To vote for the Royal Blind Asylum and School call 0901-192 9397

• To vote for Alzheimer Scotland call 0901-192 9399

• To vote for the Dean and Cauvin Trust call 0901-192 9395

• To vote for the Yard Adventure Centre call 0901-192 9398

• To vote for Simpson's Special Care Babies, call 0901-192 9396

• To vote for Parents Together call: 0901-192 9381

• To vote for the Garvald Centre call: 0901-192 9393

• To vote for SANDS Lothian call: 0901-192 9392

• To vote for Richmond's Hope call: 0901-192 9380

• To vote for the MS Therapy Centre call: 0901-192 9394


IT was founded in 1793 and has since grown into a major organisation providing education and help to thousands of visually impaired people across the Lothians.

The original residential school for the blind is still the heart of the organisation, but now it also runs a nursing home for elderly blind people and a residential school for children who are blind and handicapped which recently opened at Canaan Lane.

They also run the Scottish Braille Press, which produces braille, large print and audio versions of everything from management textbooks to books and magazines.

Fundraising work has been carried out to provide services such as a proposed sensory garden at Canaan Lane.

"It would be somewhere which would provide a great experience for blind or partially sighted people," says secretary Jim Munro. "The smells of the plants as well as the tactile sensations would be designed to give them a very relaxing experience, and we also hope to create a water fountain, so they can sit and listen to the noise.

"We also need to provide a minibus which can take five wheelchairs and five adults onboard, something which is very expensive, and it is things such as these that we are fundraising for."

The charity was nominated by Marjorie Wood, 70, a retired secretary from Morningside, who has been collecting for the Royal Blind Asylum and School for more than ten years.

"I admire them greatly," she says. "The centre for blind and disabled people is particularly helpful, and I am always amazed at the patience which the people who work there show. It is help like this which can have such a beneficial effect on the lives of so many.

"The difficulty is that there are now fewer fundraisers, which has had quite an impact on their finances."

• To vote for the Royal Blind Asylum and School call 0901-192 9397


AFTER years of hard graft as an engineer at Granton gasworks, John Harris was looking forward to retiring at 65 and enjoying his twilight years with wife Christina.

But within 12 months she had become a virtual stranger to him as he suffered the onset of dementia, which destroyed their final years together. At the time, in the early 1980s, treatment and support for sufferers and their families was vastly different to the services available today.

Watching their experiences spurred granddaughter Angie Smith to take a job at Alzheimer Scotland. Now, after seeing the impact of the charity's work, she has nominated it for the Evening News campaign.

The 44-year-old said: "With my grandfather it started off almost like a depression, he lost interest in things he used to enjoy. Then he used to get angry with my gran for things she had always done that had not annoyed him before.

"Then one day she came back from the shops and he refused to let her in because he did not recognise her. It was very distressing for both of them."

It is in stark contrast to the work she witnessed at the Lothian Early Onset Support Service for under-65s with dementia since starting there as an administrator in 2000.

Angie, who lives in Inverkeithing and is now a donor development manager at Alzheimer Scotland, said: "When I started they had a club one day a week for people with dementia where they could play reminiscence games or carpet bowls.

"It now runs four days a week and it really helps both them and their carers, who get a respite break."

The service has been operating from Quayside Street in Leith for about 11 years, helping around 80 of the estimated 240 people in Lothian under the age of 65 who have dementia.

As well as social activities, the charity helps victims with practical tasks such as banking. Funding for much of its work comes from councils and Lothian's health board.

The four-day-a-week day club, which costs around 60,000 a year to run, has been funded by a legacy which is about to run out.

• To vote for Alzheimer Scotland call 0901-192 9399


FOR teenagers living on the streets it can often seem that there is nowhere to turn.

Most have fled from a disruptive and often abusive family life, choosing instead to curl up in a doorway. Homelessness has been a problem for children in the Capital for hundreds of years, but for almost as long there have been people trying to help.

The Dean and Cauvin Trust is one such organisation. One of Edinburgh's oldest charities, it was established in 1733 by a group of merchant sailors to provide safe accommodation for homeless children in Edinburgh.

The principles of the Trust remain the same today. The Trust has two units in the Capital, which can look after around 60 children a year.

For many years, however, staff had noticed that many of the children who left the centre had fallen into more trouble, becoming drug addicts or criminals.

And so three years ago they started fundraising to set up an aftercare programme.

Pamela Kidd, 44, of Livingston, has been involved with the Trust for more than 12 years. "I came here as part of a social work course, and I was just so impressed with the people here, and the work that they do, that I decided to stay," she said.

Now the Trust's assistant director, she feels that the aftercare programme is one of the most important aspects of its work.

"These children are referred to us by social work, and that means they have almost always come from troubled backgrounds. This can lead to a lot of problems later on, and so it is really important that we can teach them how to survive outside the houses we provide.

"The accommodation is paid for by the council, but the aftercare is something we provide ourselves. We were helped by Children in Need and the Lottery, and we have done a lot of fundraising to establish it."

• To vote for the Dean and Cauvin Trust call 0901-192 9395


PLAYING on the slides and swings of a playpark is something every child enjoys, and Joseph Barnes is no different.

The 11-year-old likes to run around with other children and loves the slides and playing on the seesaw.

While other children can go from park to park, however, for Joseph, who is cortically blind, epileptic and has learning difficulties, there is only one playpark where he can really relax - the Yard. The adventure centre at Canonmills has been specially adapted for children with special support needs, such as Joseph.

For parents like Sue Barnes, 55, of Buckstone, it has proved to be a huge blessing.

"Parents can feel so isolated, and it's so nice to find a place where Joseph can play and be safe," says Sue, who nominated the charity.

"The staff there are so attentive and it just means I can stand back and let Joseph play, which wouldn't happen at other parks.

"There, the so-called 'normal' kids tend to view him as 'abnormal' and tend to look at him closely, although he has no physical abnormalities. At Scotland Yard he is able to explore much more freely, play music and has more chance to be with other children who also have problems."

The adventure centre has been running for 20 years, and is the only playground of its kind in Scotland. It has a skilled team of staff and volunteers who work with groups of children from special schools in Edinburgh, run teenage provisions and work with families, siblings, social workers and carers.

It also has sessions that encourage local children to join in.

"The Yard is a special, happy place that acts as an oasis where disabled children can truly be themselves, " says Alice Brown, deputy senior playworker.

"Well over a thousand children came to use the Yard over the summer holiday period alone this year.

The creativity of the play team ensures the playground is constantly changing to provide a range of play that adapts to the individual's and group's needs, and that can help to build self-esteem."

• To vote for the Yard Adventure Centre call 0901-192 9398


"WE were expecting to come home with a baby, but we didn't."

In one bleak sentence, Jennifer Thomas sums up the traumatic experience of losing her first baby. While many newborns in the Simpson's Special Care Unit are tiny because they have been born premature, her son Cairn was a seven-pound boy.

But after complications during labour, he spent his first days of life fighting for survival in the unit at the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Tragically they were also to be his last. He died at just one week old.

A year on and Jennifer, 35, and partner Jason Burns, 32, are overjoyed to be expecting another baby.

Understandably, however, it is a difficult time. And far from forgetting Cairn, they have nominated the Simpson's Special Care Babies (SSCB) charity for the Evening News charity campaign for their help during the couple's darkest hour.

Recalling the loss last August, Jennifer, a pharmacist, says: "It was a terrible time for us. The time we had with Cairn was so precious. The staff at the unit were fantastic. They have rooms there for parents whose babies are not going to survive. We were allowed to spend some time there with Cairn. Staff were very encouraging to us too."

Since then Jennifer has completed the Great Scottish Walk, raising 850 for the charity as a thank you for their support.

Speaking at the home in Belhaven Terrace, Morningside, that she shares with car sales executive Jason, she adds: "We really wanted to do something to help the unit."

The SSCB was set up in 1985 by a group of parents and friends whose babies had been treated in the Simpson's Intensive Care Unit, out of concern over the lack of adequate resources and support for modern life-saving technology. Its main purpose is to provide equipment, facilities and support for the unit as well as supporting research.

• To vote for Simpson's Special Care Babies, call 0901-192 9396


IT was only when police arrested his 16-year-old son for drug dealing that Ivor Forrest began to realise that he was the parent of an addict.

Slowly the signs started to become clear, but it was too late to save teenager Craig from moving on from cannabis to heroin.

Today Ivor runs a city charity called Parents Together, which aims to educate other parents about drugs to help save them and their children from the same fate.

But it's father-of-three Ian Neville, 43, who has nominated the charity after completing its course, entitled How to Drug Proof Your Kids.

Like Ivor, Ian has never had any suspicions that his two sons, aged 14 and 11, or seven-year-old daughter, have been taking any substances. And thanks to the course, Ian - who has since become treasurer of the charity - hopes none of his children will ever become addicts.

The bank portfolio manager from Bonnyrigg says: "Being a father of three young children who were just at that age you hear about all these things going on, I was concerned about whether I would be able to give my children the right advice - if I could spot the signs. I wanted to be forearmed. What I learned on the course really surprised me. Even just the level of incidence of drug use... which we learned about by going through the papers.

"The course teaches you about different drugs and how they are used. It also helps parents with communication. You learn how best to confront your children without alienating them."

Ivor set up Parents Together with his wife, Craig's step-mother, about three years ago, to teach the Australian course in Scotland after completing it himself.

The Baberton-based charity has since provided training to around 400 parents in Lothian and across Scotland, as well as training some 200 teachers, police officers and other professionals to be trainers themselves. Most of the funding for the course, which costs around 20 a head, comes from the Lloyds TSB Foundation.

Craig, now 31, is a recovering heroin addict living in Livingston and supports the charity. Remembering the ordeal of coping with his son's addiction, 60-year-old Ivor says: "We knew nothing about drugs, we were so naive. When we found out, there was the shame, and also not knowing who to turn to. We found it very difficult to talk to him about something we knew almost nothing about.

"We were aware that schools educated pupils on drugs, but no-one was educating parents."

• To vote for Parents Together call 0901-192 9381.


PAMELA CRAIG was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at just 22 weeks old, after a fit led parents Joan and Allan to have her checked by doctors.

She suffered learning difficulties, and after a few months at Corstorphine Primary School had fallen behind in her studies.

"To look at Pamela you wouldn't know she was disabled, but she is a slow learner, and so it is difficult for her," says Joan, 71. "After she left school at 16 we were told of the Garvald Centre, and she has been going there ever since."

Now she's 39 and Joan says the centre has been a godsend. "The people who work there are so patient, but they are also able to push their patients to learn and have really helped Pamela make progress."

The adult training centre has two workshops, on Gorgie Road and in Horne Terrace. The old printworks in Horne Terrace, where workshops in stained glass making, pottery, weaving and baking are held, is felt to be too cramped.

The charity were recently able to buy the old Orwell Primary School building in Dalry, and are currently trying to raise 750,000 to convert it for purpose.

• To vote for the Garvald Centre call 0901-192 9393


WHEN Jane Lockhart fell pregnant in her early 40s it was an unexpected delight for her and her partner John. But tragedy struck when their son Liam was stillborn.

The anguished couple were taken to the SANDS Lothians family room at the former Simpson's Memorial Maternity Pavilion, to spare them the added pain of facing the celebrations of happy new parents around them.

A year later, Jane finally plucked up the courage to call the stillbirth and neonatal death charity for more help.

The support she received prompted the 47-year-old city council officer, who now volunteers for SANDS Lothian, to nominate the charity.

Recalling the aftermath of her loss in 2001, she says: "That first year was so horrible. Although I knew about SANDS because of the family room and leaflets we were given in hospital, I just couldn't call them before. But I felt I wasn't moving on, so I gave them a phone. Talking to people who have been through the same experience really helped me - to hear someone say they felt like that too, and that it does get better."

Last year SANDS provided befriending, counselling, pregnancy support and advice from its Craiglockhart Sports Centre base, Colinton Road, to about 560 women and their families. The charity, which hopes to expand its services, has previously had to scale down its work because of funding problems.

• To vote for SANDS Lothian call 0901-192 9392.


ANDREW FAULDS was just two when his father died of a heart attack.

At just 26 herself, his mother Elaine had to cope with her own grief and try to help her son understand the death of his father.

"There were no books on it, and no-one really who knew what we were going through," she says. "He couldn't really understand why his daddy wasn't there any more."

Graham, a former postman, died in 2002 aged just 36 after suffering a massive heart attack while playing football with friends at Currie High School. His family had a history of heart problems, and he had suffered two previous heart attacks, but his death was still a shock.

Andrew is now seven, and in recent years has asked hundreds of questions about his father, as he begins to feel his loss more.

"I just didn't know what to do, what to say to him," says Elaine, an Asda employee from Currie. "He would ask why his daddy was in heaven when he needed him here, why he couldn't be with him when he was playing football, what he smelled like in heaven...

"Sometimes he would just sit and cry. Then he started seeing dead people in his room at night and was afraid to sleep. As he got older it just got more and more difficult so when I saw an advert for Richmond's Hope I thought I'd give it a try."

The Richmond's Hope Bereavement Project for Children was launched in 2003 by Richmond Craigmillar Church minister Liz Henderson and the church's then-project development manager Jessie Douglas, after they realised there was a lack of counselling services available for children under the age of 12.

Operating from Richmond Craigmillar Church, it is the only dedicated bereavement service for children in Scotland. Children who come to the centre are offered one-to-one bereavement counselling, play therapy and activities to help them express their feelings.

"We have probably helped around 250 children since we started and we try to see 36 a week," says Rev Henderson. "Most of the children we see have suffered from the traumatic death of someone close to them. We try to give them a space where they can express their feelings, and come to terms with what has happened."

For Elaine and Andrew, the service has made a huge difference. "They have been fantastic and it has really changed the way he sees the death of his daddy," says Elaine. "The people there really care about the children that come in, and they give them as much time as they need."

• To vote for Richmond's Hope call 0901-192 9380.


ROB PARKER didn't think anything of the strange feeling in his left leg at first. He was halfway through a marathon after all, and the odd twinge of pain was only to be expected.

But as he continued running, he realised this felt different, and over the coming months the feeling of weakness got worse.

"They told me I had multiple sclerosis," he says. "It was quite a blow, as there is no cure for it and no recognised treatment."

This led Rob, now 70, to the MS Therapy Centre Lothian, in Swanfield, where he has been going for the past seven years.

The centre offers sufferers of the disease physiotherapy and reflexology, to try to help with their muscle problems.

But it also offers a more distinctive treatment - oxygen therapy.

"There has been no scientific testing for the effects of this treatment on MS sufferers, but is has been proven to help sufferers of eczema, sports injuries and burn victims," says Maya Assileda, assistant administrator at the centre.

The centre has been running for 22 years and has more than 300 members.

Rob certainly feels it has made a difference. "It is hard to say what it has done, but certainly my symptoms haven't become any worse since I started going there, and that in itself is quite remarkable," he says.

• To vote for the MS Therapy Centre call 0901-192 9394.


IT was a hard job selecting just ten charities for the shortlist as every one entered was worthy of its nomination. Here are the other organisations whose work has touched the lives of people in Edinburgh.


• The Liberton After School Club was nominated by Lynne Maxwell and Sharon Stoddart.

• Children 1st, the national charity, was nominated by Susan Quinn and Stewart Sanderson.

• The YWCA in Restalrig was nominated by Gayle Byers, Gillian Thornburrow, Diane Gault and Scott Ramage for its provision of childcare.


• The Drum Riding for Disabled Trust was nominated by Donna Browne.

• The West Lothian Group Riding for the Disabled Association was suggested by Jen Whyte.

• Enable, the charity which helps those with learning disabilities, was nominated by A Lawson.

• A centre where those with special needs can participate in drama, music and creative play, Orcadia in Windsor Place, was nominated by E Simpson.

• An advice and information service for people with learning disabilities, FAIR, was nominated by Margaret Hurcombe.


• Queensferry Churches Care in the Community, which cares for elderly housebound people, was nominated by Christine Tait.

• Portobello Older People's Project, which does a similar job, was nominated by Rita Aitken.

• The Bingham and District 50+ Project was nominated by Heather Patten.

• The Broomhill Day Centre was suggested by Mrs K Murray.

• Artlink, which provides volunteer escorts for the elderly so they can visit arts events, was nominated by Jenny Scott.

• VOCAL Carers was nominated by a Miss Lawson, while the Midlothian branch was nominated by Pat Thorpe.


• Teenage Cancer Trust was nominated by J and R Burgess.

• The Maggie's Centre at the Western General was nominated by Mrs E Smith.

• Margaret and Hugh Brown nominated the Scottish Motor Neurone Disease Association.

• A DEBRA shop in Marchmont was nominated by Sylvia Dow, D Arnold, J Vallely, M Park, and J Adams. The charity works on behalf of people with the skin condition Epidermolysis Bullosa.

• ME Research was suggested by Moira Robb.

• St Columba's Hospice was nominated by N Forrest and Mrs T Reidie.

• Geraldine Joliffe and a Miss Lawson nominated Enlighten, the epilepsy charity.

• Depression Alliance Scotland was suggested by John Harrow.

• Health in Mind was nominated by Catherine Eadie.

• Outlook, a mental health organisation, was nominated by a Miss Galloway.

• The Neuro Fibroma-tosis Association was nominated by Mike Barrett.

• The National Schizophrenia Fellowship (Scotland) was nominated by Mrs R Rose and A Lawson.

• Health All Round, a local project in Springwell House, was nominated by Elaine Farris.

• The Marie Curie Hospice in Frogston Road was nominated by A McConnell.

• June Ross nominated the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

• Psoriasis Scotland Arthritis Link Volunteers was nominated by May Reid.


• Lifeline, an organisation providing aid to young families and counselling to women with difficult pregnancies, was nominated by Louise Smith.

• The SSPCA was nominated by F Finlayson.

• The Church of St John the Evangelist in Princes Street was nominated by Linton Horsfall.

• The Lothian Youth Arts and Musical Company was nominated by the Bremner family, A Eadie and J Davidson.

• The Dnipro Appeal, which raises money for orphans in the Ukraine, was nominated by Barbara MacDonald.

• The Edinburgh City Youth Cafe was suggested by Arin Thompson.

• Lothian Cat Rescue was nominated by Kirsten Alexander.

• The Edinburgh International Centre for World Spiritualities was nominated by C Pirie.

• The Salisbury Centre was nominated by Fiona Cartwell.

• Scottish Love in Action, which helps destitute children in India, was nominated by David Allan.

• Find out what you can do for National Giving Week