Dumfries and Galloway students give back to their community

Students from Dumfries and Galloway College have been praised after completing a ground-breaking programme centred around inclusion and giving back to the community.

A dozen students, from the college’s Stranraer campus, took part in Leonard Cheshire in Scotland’s ‘Can Do’ programme – and were recently awarded for their hard work with coveted City and Guilds certificates.

The Can Do programme is delivered by the pan-disability charity Leonard Cheshire and is designed for 16-35 year olds who have additional support needs, focusing on skills development and community involvement. The activities were picked and shaped by participants into an engaging schedule facilitated by the Leonard Cheshire Can Do co-ordinator for Dumfries and Galloway, Olivia Robinson, with the involvement of community partners.

During this programme, the Can Do participants took part in a wide range of activities, including an online Mixed Martial Arts fitness session, a Viking day at Kirkcudbright Galleries and building squirrel feeder boxes. As one student explained; “The Can Do programme is amazing and helps people to learn new skills and knowledge about the community.”

Bethany, another participant, had high praise for the programme. “It’s a great opportunity to get people outside and meeting others. The best bit was learning different things- I’ve learned to boost my confidence.”

Bethany, of Dumfries and Galloway College, making jewellery
Bethany, of Dumfries and Galloway College, making jewellery.

During their day out in Kirkcudbright, Vikings “Cathbad” and “Hrefna” from Wordsmithcrafts CIC provided the Can Doers with an authentic day of traditional storytelling, jewellery making and learning, with a tour around the Galloway Hoard; a vast collection of Viking and Anglo-Saxon artefacts discovered just a few miles away from Kirkcudbright.

The students enjoyed a fantastic presentation from volunteer Catherine Steyn who explained the life-changing impact of guide dogs. The project also benefited from a number of other community volunteers – including Jane and Helen who delivered a beautiful flower arranging session. The Participants then gave back to the community, giving their flower arrangement to a person of their choice.

Volunteer Angus Hoban created squirrel feeder box kits which students built and painted. The completed boxes were then donated to the East Wigtownshire Red Squirrel Group to help protect the local red squirrel population. Not only did volunteers get involved, but businesses in the area were eager to help out too, donating hardware and high quality Perspex to the group, both for use on the squirrel boxes. Through these community involvements, the students were able to experience both sides of the world of volunteering and were able to learn how important and impactful it can be to offer your time and skills to the community.

Olivia, Can Do Coordinator, said “It was a privilege to work with this amazing group of young people. The students produced some brilliant new ideas for activities to do as part of their Can Do project. It was great to see the students trying new things and learning new transferable skills which will help them in other areas of life.

“The student’s chose a variety of lovely ways to give back to the community throughout the project, from giving their flower arrangements to a loved one to making and donating squirrel feeder boxes to help the local red squirrels. A big well done to the young people, they’ve worked hard for their certificates. Thank you also to all the amazing partners involved in this project – it wouldn’t have been possible without you.”

David Miller, Chair of East Wigtownshire Red Squirrel Group, said: “We are really grateful to Can Do for making these feeder boxes which will help the group immensely in their ongoing work to help maintain red squirrel populations in south west Scotland.

“We have really enjoyed our Zoom sessions with Can Do members and they came up with some really thought-provoking questions which kept us on our toes!  We look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship in the future.”