East Lothian foster children showing their compassion for pets looking for new homes
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 1,000 youngsters come through its doors to take part in its ground-breaking 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 4 classes at Dunbar Primary school over the last year with a researcher from the University of Edinburgh looking at how its work has helped children and the results are due out later this year.
Founder Lesley Winton hopes that 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 children who might not normally come our way.”
Lesley 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 like Mr T who are being rehomed.
Through talking about the things the dog might need from toothbrushes to ‘pee pads’ and 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.
Among letters sent to dogs, which will be on display during an open weekend the charity is holding at its headquarters, in Ormiston, East Lothian are advice from the youngsters to brush their teeth and enjoy their lives.
One child even wrote in a letter “dogs lives matter”.
The charity receives no government or local authority funding and running costs are around £4,500 a month to provide its services to youngsters and their carers.
Lesley said it depends heavily on grants and donations and is desperately looking for more support to keep doing the work.
In the last year many of its therapy pets who take part in its workshops, which include both dogs and therapy ponies, have been ‘furloughed’ due to the pandemic.
But Lesley is confident the charity has come through the crisis and is looking forward.
She said: “One definition of the word resilience is being ‘able to withstand shock without permanent deformation or rupture’.
“There is no doubt that this past year has been a massive shock and while we have reformed, we have not ruptured."