“We need to let as many people as possible know about what we have here, because it is really special,” says Victoria, one of the Board members of the Boghall Drop In Centre. And, after visiting last month at their request for an article, I have to agree; I was blown away by what’s going on at the Boghall Drop In Centre.
In a large modern building built in 2014 by West Lothian Council (after community consultation), Boghall Drop-In is actually a grassroots community organisation started in 2004 by local residents involved in a couple of community groups, who felt there were not enough meet-up opportunities in Boghall. They got together, refurbished an old shop on Margaret Avenue and started providing group meet ups and activities for children and families in Boghall. “It rapidly grew arms and legs, with the activities being hugely popular and local people volunteering their time to run groups and keep the Drop-In centre open,” explains Kelly, who grew up here and is now the Charity Co-ordinator. So it was developed by the community, for the community from the very beginning, and today the organisation keeps that firmly in sight at all times.
The central, welcoming cafe area is true to this initial sentiment. At the heart of the project is the desire to welcome and include everyone, from all walks of life and all backgrounds. Anyone can drop in, get a coffee, sit and use the wifi, chat, check out what groups are on, and so on. Everyone, from teens at a loose end, young parents through to older people, find a warm welcome here and almost always find other activities they can get involved in.
Besides timetabled groups (see end of this article for examples of some of the groups), community facilities include a cafe (Mon to Fri) with free wifi and computers. There is also a computer room for general use, whether you need to sort your CV, do some online shopping, get some things printed out. “We have some older people who come in and prefer to use the computers here and get lunch in the cafe rather than sitting alone at home,” explains Victoria.
Within Boghall, it’s a well known and loved institution; outside of Boghall, hardly anyone knows about it, but the committee is keen to encourage people from elsewhere in Bathgate and further afield to come and join in.
Lovely thoughtful touches are everywhere; a clothing rail where people can help themselves to some clothing; a 'Pennies Pantry' where you can register for food and other household items such as nappies or toilet roll; all items available will be a £1 or less. When you can become a member for as little as £1 per person per month, or families £1.75 per month, this entitles you to a bag of food per week. This money is then paid back into the BDIC for services or groups. Items have been donated by local shops or organisations.
Whilst the Council covers the cost of the building, and there is a small number of paid staff thanks to Big Lottery funding, much of the rest of the operation is run by volunteers. As I was visiting during the Easter break, I met Caroline, the dinner lady cooking lunch for the 50 kids attending the holiday club (the free lunches were provided by West Lothian Council). And there was the university student running a dance and movement session for kids, accompanied by other young people in the community helping out, all volunteers. All of them are driven by the fun and fulfilment they get from it, as well as the desire to help out and make sure these wonderful opportunities are available to the community.
“We need volunteers not only to run the groups and activities, but, crucially, as members of the community, they can contribute ideas on what is needed here at the Drop In Centre,” explains Victoria. “If for example you are from a culture that is under-represented, volunteering here will make you feel welcome, and your contributions will add to the rich variety of things we can offer, which we value hugely.”
“Volunteering is one of the biggest things you can do,” says Kelly. “You don’t need any special qualifications, just a desire to help and to be involved in the community. You make good friends here, we’re all part of the volunteering family! And are fully supported by all the staff.”
There is much more – they work with other agencies such as Access 2 Employment, and third party groups use the building; it’s quite an incredible hive of activity but at the same time a great can-do atmosphere pervades, a feeling that no problem is too big or too small to tackle.
What do you need in order to volunteer here? “To be non-judgemental, and kind” says Victoria. “That is all that matters.”
If you are interested in volunteering at Boghall Drop In Centre, please contact Alison on firstname.lastname@example.org
Clubs on offer at Boghall Drop In include:
Little Monsters (for babies and pre-schoolers, including messy play, arts and crafts, reading, music, and incorporating helping parents make healthy food).
Homework clubs and Youth Clubs
Cookery Classes for young people
Knit & Natter for the over 50s (on one occasion the kids holiday club ended up learning knitting from the Knit & Natter club who were in at the same time during a school holiday! A great time was had by all!)
Glitter Cannons - social club for young LGBT+ people
Sunshine Club - the school holiday club, which runs over the whole of the summer holidays at an incredible cost of £5 per week per child!
...and much more! Please call in and ask us!
Article published in Konect June 2019
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer