Thriving Communities

Helping those in need in Girvan

Gill Sherry

In the summer of 2021, four services of Community Learning & Development, Health & Wellbeing, Community Safety and Employability merged to form a new Thriving Communities service.

I meet Ainsley McCrindle and Chelsea Glass at Glendoune Community Centre in Girvan. Ainsley is the Senior Communities Officer for Thriving Communities. Chelsea is a Communities Officer.

‘Community’ is a word that dominates our conversation. It is, after all, what Glendoune Community Centre is all about. In partnership with numerous different services, it aims to provide help and support to the people of Girvan who need it the most.

“We do loads of things,” Ainsley begins. “One of the main things is our adult learning provision. That consists of so many different groups to try and get people in the community to come along and remove barriers to employment, barriers to mental health… any barrier you can think of.”
“Food poverty and isolation as well,” Chelsea adds, “to try and get people back out. That’s done through cooking, drop-ins, arts and crafts…”

They even offer support with driving theory tests.
“We prepare people for their driving theory test,” Chelsea explains, “and if we think they’re ready then we have funding available to put them through their test as well.”

Although officially based at the Carrick Opportunities Centre in Henrietta Street, most of the services are provided from the premises at 60 Piedmont Road.

“We have different services such as ‘We Are With You’,” Ainsley continues. “They run an addiction service. We have the NHS in, they run a social isolation group for people that have just been diagnosed with dementia. We have ‘Three Sixty’, the mental health charity, that come in and support us with our group provisions.”

The services appear to be limitless and include everything from advice on budgeting to personal development groups, workshops and isolation groups.

“The Association runs its own isolation groups,” Ainsley informs me. “They support people with social isolation, but it’s a maximum of 20 a week and they’re full. That shows the need for these things in this area.”

As well as referrals from social workers, schools and other sources, Ainsley and Chelsea also get to hear of those needing help through their own local connections.

“I’ve lived in Girvan my whole life,” Ainsley tells me, “and I’ve lived in Glendoune most of my life as well, so it tends to be a snowball effect of families.”

“When we first moved into this area,” Chelsea adds, “we did a bit of consultation… went round the doors, asked what they wanted and took a note of what they were looking for. Then we contact these people when these groups are running and it’s up to them whether they want to attend. Sometimes people just need that wee bit of encouragement, and you do find that their partners sometimes just give them that wee push to get them through the door.”

“Helping to bring support into the community is our main drive and focus,” says Ainsley, who is in charge of the youth club for P6 and P7. It’s a six week, on-going provision held on a Tuesday and Thursday evening and also allows for trips out of the area.

“It’s all about youth development… trying to help that child reach a positive destination. Any child going into Primary 7 is experiencing several changes in their lives. It’s a blessing to help support them make positive changes.”

Thriving Communities works in partnership with all schools to provide the best support possible for each child and parent. But the service doesn’t stop during school holidays.

“We do holiday programmes as well,” Ainsley continues. “Last year we got 158 referrals and we could only take 30 kids a day. It’s very difficult… but we did two trips a week. We did Bouncestation, we did the zoo, the cinema, safari park, go-carting. You name it, we did it!”

The centre is also open during the summer to provide a safe space for kids who may just need someone to talk to, something to eat, or somewhere warm to sit. And, of course, it’s open all year round for adults where Ainsley and Chelsea are welcoming more and more people who need help.
As well as recognising and addressing the basic needs of those who come through the door, Ainsley is also looking out for potential.

“It’s about building skills as well. Young people are developing their skills by volunteering at our groups… that then gives them that community learning. If we see potential… if you volunteer your services and your time and I know you want a job… that’s one of my biggest focuses.”

Chelsea elaborates: “Maybe it’s people that are not fit enough to go to work but they’re really keen to volunteer. We’ve got them volunteering positions, whether it’s with us or with other charities in the area. It’s just about giving them that bit of routine and responsibility.”

The official drop-in hours at the centre are Wednesdays from mid-day to 1.15pm and Ainsley and Chelsea encourage anyone in Girvan needing help or advice to call in. Having said that, if the door is open, regardless of what day it is or what time it is, no-one will be turned away.

Both women consider their roles extremely rewarding but it can also be, at times, challenging as well as emotional.

“It’s very humbling,” says Ainsley, “but it’s hard to leave once you’ve worked here. It’s a wee family hub!”
Thriving Communities began a new block of courses on 16th January but further courses will commence beyond that date every six weeks. To conclude, Ainsley says:
“Glendoune Community Association plays a massive part in the support provided within the area. Having a group of volunteers who are dedicated to making positive changes is what really brings the community spirit. The Association works all year round to put on excellent seasonal events and it’s great to see those events getting a high footfall. All events are free of charge for children and families in Glendoune. This wouldn’t be possible without the support from funders including Grants Foundation, VASA (Voluntary Action South Ayrshire) and South Ayrshire Council. Without the volunteers none of the success would be possible and for that we are extremely grateful.”

For more information or for help with any of the issues addressed, contact Ainsley at ainsley.mccrindle@south-ayrshire.gov.uk or call 01292 612796.