Hi Sam, firstly thank you for agreeing to take part in the interview and sharing with us some insights into the positive work that you have been doing during lockdown in order to help others. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, my name is Samantha Gough, I am 17 in my final year of high school based in Edinburgh Midlothian. My condition is cerebral visual impairment and I am registered blind, (B2 classification Sport).
Brightsparks is an organisation in Scotland that is ran by your mum Louise Gough and other parent volunteers, can you tell me more about what Brightsparks does?
Bright Sparks is a charity for children aged birth-21yrs with significant complex disabilities and their families in Midlothian.
Bright Sparks is a charity, which is fully grant dependant. This voluntary service is run by a Management Committee made up of parent volunteers. Whom are committed to making a difference offering a range of opportunities and activities which aren’t widely available locally.
“Bright Sparks is not a Midlothian Council Service”
Within the Bright Sparks Centre, we deliver 8 playgroup sessions every week during the academic school year. 0-5yrs playgroups “Giving parents the opportunity to learn to interact and play with their child separately from their caring roles” during a time where diagnosis or unexplained concerns can be overwhelming.
Bright Sparks aim to offer a range of opportunities weekly. We also aim to offer a range of clubs and activities for children giving them similar opportunities in line with their peers like Brownies, Scouts and other clubs within a supportive environment. We also offer Play Family sessions.
During the school holidays we offer a range of Holiday Clubs with various play sessions and activities and trips and outings as we understand how long and isolating the holidays can be.
December 2015 saw Bright Sparks move to it a new building within King George V par, a purpose build centre of excellence, with fully developed play areas for children with disabilities and their families. Unfortunately, we will never be able to provide enough opportunities/support for all families, but for all we aim to provide these services, they will always be grant fund dependant, unfortunately there is never guarantees.
Since 2005 as we came together during Bright Sparks playgroup sessions realising “we were all connected by the unexpected different Children rearing experience different from our peers” we soon realised how isolating and limited the supports were for families with children with disabilities, with that at the heart of this, we aimed to making a difference.
We are just a group of passionate parents trying to make a difference within their communities, while facing the same daily challenges with our own children’s disabilities no different from other parents.
This year’s theme for Children’s Mental Health week is ‘Express yourself’ I came across the project you are running within the Brightsparks organisation that looks at helping children with various craft activities by supplying videos and craft bags- can you please tell me more about that project?
During the first lockdown last March bright Sparks were able to get funding from STV and foundation Scotland mum came up with and idea to support children through the difficult time by providing art and craft activities todo at home the first lot of charge bags was given to 173 children accessing BrightSpark’s some children were offered Amazon vouchers as an alternative to the craft bags due to there different needs and the second lot of craft bags went to 173 children and the and the current lot of craft bags that just got finished reached 204 children due to an increase of new members of bright Sparks
The craft selection was different for different ages in children this time was different as I made YouTube video tutorials for the children to follow along independently giving them a 1 to 1 guide
Do you feel that the project is something that is helping others and if you do why and in what way?
The project has given children a focus during lockdown separate from home schooling and enjoy fun activities, the opportunity to post their master prices on BS Facebook page for judging. The feedback from families has been overwhelming at the variety and selection of activities each bag contained. Fun for all at home.
Do you feel that the project is helping you in anyway?
Yes, it has, I have benefited from bring involved I am able to claim my volunteer hours as part of my Duke of Edinburgh and Saltire awards. It has helped my mental health by staying active and doing something so helpful to children.
You must be creative yourself in order to have the motivation/ideas and inspiration to drive this project forward- what kind of creative activities do you do in your own spare time and how do you feel they help towards emotional health and well-being?
I’ve always been a creative person whether it’s been through dance, art, music or sport I’ve always been encouraged to express myself and frustrations through in a creative way which has helped with my positive attitude and well-being.
How are you finding lockdown in general? Do you feel it has had a detrimental or positive impact on your mental health?
I’ve really struggled with isolation and the limitations of not being able to the things I love. BrightSpark’s has given me a focus and it’s a great feeling known I’m helping families in need.
What is your top tip or best piece of advice for having some pandemic positivity?
Take each day at a time, keep active and have a routine and only do things that you love, and if that means buying a cat then so be it 🙂