Children write to Nicola Sturgeon in plea to save threatened Craigmillar project

Paige Stoddart (11, left) amd Ellie Wilson (9, right) were prompted to write a letter to Nicola Sturgeon asking her to come and visit the centre.  Pic: Greg Macvean
Paige Stoddart (11, left) amd Ellie Wilson (9, right) were prompted to write a letter to Nicola Sturgeon asking her to come and visit the centre. Pic: Greg Macvean
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YOUNGSTERS at a threatened children’s project in Craigmillar have written a personal letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon inviting her to visit.

The Venchie runs a range of activities, including a breakfast club which boosts vulnerable youngsters’ attendance at school by picking them up from home, giving them a healthy meal to start the day and walking them to their classes.

There is also an after-school club, drama club, parents’ and toddlers’ club, family days and holiday play-schemes.

But it is facing closure after the council withdrew its funding.

Now the youngsters have asked Ms Sturgeon to come and see for herself the work the project does.

The letter was penned by Paige Stoddart, 11, and Ellie Wilson, 10, on behalf of all the children attending the summer playscheme.

They wrote: “Dear Nicola Sturgeon, We go to a place named the Venchie centre for young people. We would really love you to come and see what we do.

“We find it extremely enjoyable and inclusive! We love it here. We hope you will consider visiting us.”

And they included comments from other children to show how popular the place is.

Lyla – “It’s fun and the best place I’ve ever been.”

Demi – “I like everything.”

Jacob – “We get to play and do healthy activities.”

Miley – “I like to go in the soft play.”

Imogen – “It’s fun and we get to do super activities and meet new friends.”

Jude –”There is a huge football pitch and we love to play in it.”

Ellie – “I love to play on the swings.”

Paige – “I can climb trees and the flying fox.”

Venchie manager Susan Heron explained how the letter to the First Minister came about.

She said: “One of the children who attended here when she was at a crisis time years ago is now studying to be a social worker.

“She was at some event Nicola Sturgeon was holding and she spoke to her about the Venchie, saying we were her mainstay at the time and she didn’t know where she and her family would have ended up if it wasn’t for the Venchie. And Nicola said she would like to see this project.

“So when I heard about that I wrote and invited her – then I thought it might be better 
coming from the kids. I mentioned it to a couple of them, asked if they knew who she was and would they like her to come and visit.

“They went away and came back with this letter in their own words – and they’d asked other children and one of the staff why they liked the Venchie so they could include their thoughts as well.”

The council has said the children will all get places at the breakfast club at their school and any additional needs will also be met. But Ms Heron and supporters of the campaign to keep the Venchie open say that misses the unique nature of the Venchie’s work with children from difficult backgrounds, and without being collected from home many of them would never get to school.