With a little help from my friends

12 December 2018 | Scotland


River Kids


Charity helps families when the going gets tough.

River Kids are there for when the going gets tough. This fantastic charity in Livingston, West Lothian, hands out toys, clothes and equipment to children and families most in need, throughout West Lothian.

Wendy Simpson set up the project back in 2005, and named it after the River Almond, which touches all parts of West Lothian. She was inspired after seeing that other families were struggling.

“My sons were lucky. They had doting parents, so many opportunities open to them. But looking around their school, or when I took them to the park, it was clear that many kids did not have the same chances,” she says. “It got me thinking that all children deserve a chance and opportunities. It could be that we provide a pair of school shoes, a bike, a bed or table and chairs,” she says. “It sounds simple, a table and chair, but often families find themselves starting again in a home that has no furnishings.

“A woman may have fled a violent partner with her children for example. If we can give them a table and chairs, it’s somewhere for them to come together and have dinner, to play games or for the children to do homework. Giving them that gives them a sense of pride, a chance to think the future might not be so bleak.”

Mum Theresa McGuire is just one person helped. When her benefits were suddenly stopped just before Christmas three years ago she was thrown into panic. The 31-year-old had not been able to buy any presents yet for her two children and now faced the prospect of two distraught children.

“My girls were only young and I’d just split from their dad, and money was tight,” she remembers. “Christmas was coming and I was heartbroken at the thought of them waking up on the day and not having a present.

“Wendy and River Kids stepped in and sent me a huge parcel of arts and crafts and two amazing bikes, one purple and one with castles on, as she knew that’s what my girls loved,” recalls Theresa. “Their old bikes were too small for them, so this was just brilliant. Wendy and the team literally saved Christmas.”

Theresa says it also gave her a chance to think there was hope. And now, she’s working full time for River Kids partly to help others who find themselves in a similar position.

“I’m no longer on benefits and my life has been turned around,” she says. “What Wendy does is incredible. It may seem like a small thing River Kids is giving, like a bed, but it gives families so much more – hope, self-esteem and the ability to think that the future is bright.”

Whilst they don’t normally get to meet the referrals, Wendy is proud that one of her members of staff is actually someone who got referred to her for help. “It’s all about people helping people,” she says.

River Kids has been chosen as a TSB Local Charity Partner by staff at the bank’s head office in Edinburgh. Staff there have raised a whooping £4,000 with various fundraising projects over the year.

“The staff at TSB have been invaluable,” says Wendy. “And we are delighted to be going into a second year as their charity partner. We are so grateful to them and their staff.”

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