Computers and toys transforming lives at Southside
This year we came across a special charity called Southside which is focused on improving the lives of the underprivileged in parts of Bath. The focus of their work is compelling and the people involved are inspirational. After lots of discussion we decided to give them a grant to buy much needed computers to help the front line staff do their jobs more effectively plus toys and other children’s equipment to better equip their community hub groups.
We asked Penny McKissock, Southside’s Chief Executive and Isobel Michael their fund raiser to tell us what has been happening. Here’s what they had to say.
“Let’s start with something about Southside and what it’s about. Southside Family Project in Bath aims to ensure that children, young people and adults with multiple and complex difficulties access the care and support that they need, so their families can enjoy the safety, experiences and opportunities they deserve. For over twenty years, Southside has been ‘standing behind’ people, whose lives have been damaged by violence, abuse and neglect, providing support and help when they need us, in a non-judgemental, compassionate and encouraging way.
Some of these remarkable people are now involved in Southside as staff or volunteers. Our Family Champions and Young Advocates use their personal lived experiences to support and inspire others in their communities to seek help and have their voices heard.
Sharon is a wonderful example. She uses her personal experience and the confidence, resilience and skills gained through the support from Southside over many years, leading to volunteering to help others and now running the network of Community Hub Groups across Bath and North East Somerset.
The new computers, toys and resources for Southside have been particularly transformational for Sharon. She is now able to use a laptop to work remotely and document the critical information about families and feedback from the hub groups much more efficiently and securely. She’s taken on a lot of responsibility in a short time and said “Working from home gives me the space to think about my role. What information I’m holding and what I’m supposed to be holding. I feel more confident and can now keep on top of recording all the information by the end of each week.”
All workers carry the emotional burden of information shared by individuals they support and it’s critical that they can record the details accurately, securely and efficiently. The new computers help us to do this. Southside workers all receive regular supervision and support to help them. This is critical to support staff who are regularly exposed to other people’s distressing experiences, as they are also personally affected by the trauma without the right support. The increased capacity and efficiency thanks to the new computers also enable staff and volunteers to focus more time on the relationships that matter so much helping individuals and families to access the safety, care support and opportunities they need.
Sharon has also seen the impact of the new toys, resources and arts and crafts materials. The families love doing arts and crafts in the community hub groups, and some group members are staying longer because they’re engaged in crafts activities. Sharon has also found it easier to engage people in natural conversations whilst they are working on arts and crafts activities. There’s no need to make eye contact, they can talk openly about difficult issues, often for the first time.
Children love using the new toys and equipment in Southside’s Creative Art and Therapeutic Play sessions. These help to stimulate children’s imagination and creativity through art activities, games, storytelling and role-play. Some sessions are just with the children, and some working with a child and parent together, using play to strengthen the bonds between them. Colourful, inspiring new toys and resources have enabled children and families to enjoy playing new games and have fun together, building their confidence and self-esteem. The therapeutic play sessions also create a safe space to help children identify and deal with unpleasant, stressful and angry feelings. With time and the support of Southside staff, they will see themselves as worthy and lovable with greater confidence and self-esteem.”
Penny and Isobel’s blog opens the window on part of what Southside is doing and how we have been able to help. We are excited by this new relationship and are confident that this is the start of a long and fruitful partnership that will benefit so many families in Bath who need our help.