Rescue animals help vulnerable youngsters find their voice

Fostering Compassion’s workshops encourage cared-for children to learn about animals who are looking for new homes.

Rescue animals help vulnerable youngsters find their voice LDRS

A children’s charity is helping vulnerable youngsters find their voice by using experiences of rescue animals.

Fostering Compassion’s unique workshops encourage cared-for children to learn about animals who are looking for new homes.

And they are able to relate to some of the issues the pets face as they prepare to move into new homes.

The charity, which started in 2013 when it supported just ten children, has now seen more than 1000 youngsters come through its doors to take part in its groundbreaking humane education projects.

And it has battled through its toughest year yet as the pandemic brought a halt to face-to-face sessions for a while, by providing virtual workshops to primary school children.

The charity has worked with five primary four classes at Dunbar Primary School in East Lothian over the last year, with a researcher from the University of Edinburgh looking at how its work has helped children.

The results are due out later this year.

Founder Lesley Winton hopes the pilot project could see Fostering Compassion’s workshops adopted in schools across the country as youngsters impacted by the pandemic move forward.

She said: “The pandemic is now being classed as an adverse childhood experience so getting into classes means we can reach a lot of vulnerable chldren who might not normally come our way.”

Ms Winton uses the experiences of her old rescue dog Mr T in one of her workshops.

She tells the story of how Mr T came in as an older dog and struggled to find the right home, and children are encouraged to create comfort boxes for dogs who are being rehomed.

Through talking about the things the dog might need – from toothbrushes to ‘pee pads’ to dreamcatchers to help with nightmares – the children, aged three to 13, are encouraged to talk about their own experiences and form a common bond with the rescue animal experiences.

The boxes, which are decorated by the children and include letters to the dogs, are then delivered to rescue charities by the team.

Videos of the dogs receiving their boxes are also shared with the children.

The charity receives no government or local authority funding and running costs are around £4500 a month to provide its services to youngsters and their carers.

Ms Winton said it depends heavily on grants and donations and is desperately looking for more support to keep doing the work.

“There is no doubt that this past year has been a massive shock and while we have reformed, we have not ruptured,” she said.

“While there are still many months of uncertainty ahead we have got through this, we have survived and indeed thrived, and we will move forward with optimism, stronger and more resilient than ever.”

Fostering Compassion has an open fortnight starting on Monday for people to go along and explore its work.

To find out more or to sign up to support the charity, click here.

By local democracy reporter Marie Sharp

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