NYA Moderator visits Go For It projects in Glasgow

Youth Moderator Andrew MacPherson spent a day visiting Go For It projects across Glasgow, taking in an innovative arts programme, a youth empowerment scheme, and a group supporting people with mental health and addiction problems. Each was chosen to reflect the National Youth Assembly's 2017 themes of gender justice, mental health and fresh expressions of church.

Lorraine Buchanan and Andrew MacPherson
Lorraine Buchanan co-founder of Just Like US with NYA Moderator Andrew MacPherson.

Just Like Us

The first stop of the day was Just Like Us, a twice weekly drop-in session and programme based at Colston Milton Parish Church in North Glasgow that supports people with addiction, mental health issues, or who are suffering from isolation.

Gerry Murphy, one of the founders, puts the success of the programme down to the unique format of using "lived experience" - people who have also had similar issues but have learnt how to deal with them.

"To deliver a program you should be able to apply it to your own life. It's been fascinating seeing results, people taking control of their life - empowering."

So far the group has helped fifty-three people come through its program, which has provided a life-line in an area with one of the highest rates of depression in the UK.

Rev Christopher Rowe of Colston Milton Parish Church says: "everyone believes passionately in the good that goes on here."

For Lorraine Buchanan, another founding member her "lightbulb moment" came in the wake of her husband's death and the difficult period that followed.

She is very much aware of the challenges facing those that attend Just Like US. "People with mental health issues find it very hard coming through the door".

Ms Buchanan then spoke of Carol who hadn't left her house in five years but starting coming along to the twice weekly days and was able to improve from attending the sessions.

Ekama Eni, 23, from Denton, Texas, is on a one-year placement as a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) at Colston Milton Parish Church and says Just Like Us has made her rethink how churches work.

"It's definitely expanded my experience of what church is - and it's not just Sunday mornings."

Gospel Sketchbook Project

Artist Iain Campbell, NYA Moderator Andrew MacPherson and Rev Alastair Duncan
Rev Alastair Duncan, NYA Moderator Andrew MacPherson and artist Iain Campbell.

Artist in residence for the church Iain Campbell sees his Gospel Sketchbook project as an engaging way to teach a younger generation about the gospels, something which can be difficult in the city centre.

The idea for the project started at drop-in events at Colston Milton Parish Church. Mr Campbell would informally sketch portraits and found that this was an effective way of reaching out to people.

"People would tell you their life stories. You'd be sat doing someone's portrait and they'd tell you about their husband's suicide."

Following on the success of Mr Campbell's Last Supper painting, supported by a Go For It pilot scheme grant, a three year main grant has now made the current project possible.

Mr Campbell describes the sessions which he holds every Saturday as a "cross between bible study and art class", with each week focussing on helping people engage with short sections of the bible.

Over three years he will paint scenes from the Gospel of Luke and run the weekly classes.

Rev Alastair Duncan, the minister of St George's Tron sees it as one of the ways that the church has created a welcoming atmosphere aimed at a younger generation in the area.

"We deliberately blur the edge between the church and the café. Part of that was the idea of Iain painting at the same time."

Mr Campbell agrees:

"You'd hope you'd be painting and people would interact with you - and they do."

PEEK

The final project was PEEK, short for Possibilities for Each and Every Kid, which from an office in Glasgow's East End delivers an ambitious range of youth activities - with the difference that young people take the lead.

PEEK has been involved with Go For It since 2012 and particularly focuses on include gender issues and mental health, although specific topics are always chosen by the young people who are involved with PEEK.

Helen Mill, Creative Learning Development Manager, explains about PEEK's BE... project, something that Go For It funds made possible:

"It was about giving young people the opportunity to explore emotional health and well-being - who they were, what that meant to them. Building resilience, developing coping strategies, all done in a really creative way that can be shared with their peers. For example we've had young people develop their own workshops and have a photography exhibition."

"We would not be able to do this without Go For It funding."

Other outcomes include young people creating films and running workshops. Impressively there are a total of sixty-one young people signed up as volunteers with the program.

NYA Moderator Andrew added his thoughts on PEEK:

"They are absolutely living up to their name and the impact on the young people's lives is clear for all to see."

Summing up the day, Andrew described seeing the "incredible" impact of these diverse projects in Glasgow:

"It was such a valuable experience to visit the Go For It funded projects and see the impact that these are having on people's lives who approach it from all different backgrounds."

"It was also particularly pleasing to visit projects working with similar themes to those of the National Youth Assembly."

The next funding deadline for Go For It is on Friday 24 February. For more details visit www.churchofscotland.org.uk/serve/go_for_it