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A Life Inspiring Young People

It is with great sadness that Bridges Project has learned of the death of our former Chief Executive Jim Boyle. For over 30 years, Jim had led the Project as it inspired thousands of young people in the Lothians to build a confident future.

Last year alone more than 500 teenagers and young adults completed one or more of Bridges Project’s support programmes, successfully helping them into work, or further education whilst gaining important life skills.  Without this intervention, many of them would have ended up unemployed and facing a range of challenges such as poor mental health and social isolation.

Since its establishment in 1985, Jim helped build the Musselburgh based charity to its current operation, employing a staff team of 16 committed professionals. As a keen advocate of good governance and transparency in the voluntary sector, his skills and personality were instrumental in winning the support of the Bridges Project’s financial backers.

Emma Scarcliffe, our Acting Chief Executive, paid tribute to Jim, “He truly was an incredible man who was dedicated to ensuring young people were given the right support to overcome challenges and go on to live fulfilling and successful lives. He was passionate, committed and inspiring, leading Bridges Project to become the highly successful charity it is today. I speak on behalf of the whole staff team when I say not only was he a fantastic leader and mentor, he was a true friend who will be dearly missed.”

Karen Aitchison, Chairperson of our Board of Trustees added “Jim was a man of strong principles. His depth of compassion was matched by forward thinking practicality – always with the good of the young people he served at the front and centre of his practice. His views were often thought provoking and challenging and delivered with a bone dry sense of humour, he will be greatly missed.”

Latest Cashback Annual Report

Check out our latest Way2Work#Cashback year 2 annual report.

Stepping out to support Bridges Project

Spring is in the air and we’ve entered Kiltwalk season! Grant, our Transitions Development Worker in East Lothian’s high schools, will be putting a ‘spring’ in his step and embarking on the 23 mile jaunt from Glasgow to Balloch on Sunday 28th April, in aid of Bridges Project!

He will be in need of some musical inspiration to help him through – he’s asking you to Sponsor a Song to inspire him as the miles clock up. Grant has built a Spotify playlist, snappily titled the Kiltwalkman. No matter what the song is, he will listen to it… You might bless him with some inspirational anthems, or curse him with some B*witched, Shania Twain or Baby Shark (doo doo doodoo doodoo).

He’s asking you to generously donate £2 per song, name your tunes in the comments field as you donate. The power is in your hands – thanks in advance!

All good things come to an end…

Over the last few years, we have enjoyed the company and welcomed the contributions made by our social work interns from Germany.  The European Union’s Erasmus+ programme has been instrumental in enabling these internships.  Bridges Project hosted workers who want to improve their practice and students who are keen to experience a placement in Scotland.  One of our partners is The Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW).  It is a prestigious institution of higher education with campuses throughout the state of Baden-Württemberg.  It offers dual-education bachelor’s-degree programs in cooperation with industry and non-profit institutions in the social work field. Our interns from DHBW have a hectic rotation of work in their chosen social work field and study at the DHBW campus in Stuttgart.  They have the option, with permission from their employers, to experience three months of working abroad with cooperation partners.  Our DHBW interns have come from very different working environments – criminal justice, mental health, social integration and early years.  Jessie is the latest intern from DHBW.  She arrived amidst the confusion of ‘Brexit’ and departs amidst… the confusion of ‘Brexit’.  Like her DHBW predecessors – Kim, Lilli and Arlene – Jessie has made a real contribution to our work with young people and has taken advantage of Scotland’s natural bounty, architectural and cultural heritage.  We have thoroughly enjoyed hosting her and hope that she leaves Scotland with a good impression and fond memories.  Here is her short reflection – My Time at Bridges Project .

Cook 2 Succeed

Thanks to funding from Musselburgh Area Partnership, we’ve been able to respond to the many requests from our young people living in the local area to put on a new cooking group.  The purpose of the group was to give young people the experience of working alongside a professional chef to help build confidence, learn about healthy eating, work as a team and try something new while devolving new skills.  At the end of the course, they were offered the chance to gain their Elementary Food Hygiene (REHIS) certificate – something that is required for many areas of work from catering to childcare.

With the help of Phil Halfpenny, a chef from Harvey Nichols, the group cooked an international menu with all their favourite dishes – chilli con carne, lamb koftas, spaghetti carbonara, American burgers and chicken fajitas, to name but a few.  Each week the group gained confidence, using new ingredients, learning different cooking techniques and trying strange and exotic foods, whilst socialising with their new colleagues around the dining table.  Bridges Project staff willingly took on the role of taste testers every Friday lunchtime.  Over the course of the 10 weeks, 12 young people participated in the group.  Seven of them gained their Food Hygiene qualification, which was facilitated by Edinburgh Community Food, and we’re confident the remaining three will do so soon.

This was a successful project, which young people thoroughly enjoyed and gained so much from.  It is a good example of how the Musselburgh Area Partnership is making a difference.  Our aspiring young chefs grew in confidence, increased their awareness of healthy eating, and gained a recognised qualification to add to their CVs.  Our staff tasters gained a couple of inches!

“It has been a positive learning experience”, “I learned about seasonal food and healthy eating”. “I would like to do it again”, “I feel more aware about healthy eating” “I like how everything was made from scratch”, “I feel more confident and have learned new recipes”.

New Investment from the European Social Fund and the Scottish Government

1st August 2018 is the launch date of Bridges Project’s new Support2Succeed service, thanks to funding awarded through the European Social Fund and the Scottish Government.  The Service is supported by the £9.7m Growing the Social Economy Programme as part of the Fairer Scotland Action Plan to tackle poverty and inequality.

The award of up to £137,733 under the Social Economy Growth Fund to March 2020 will increase our capacity to tackle poverty and inequality by supporting those young people aged 16 to 25 years, who are most disadvantaged by circumstances and affected by personal barriers to inclusion.

The investment enables Bridges Project to grow its multi-disciplinary team by the addition of two new full time posts – a Personal Development Tutor and a Personal Development Worker.  Nicola Falconer and Pauline Carter will deliver a range of intensive individual support, accredited and  informal learning opportunities to young people, including parents, from East Lothian and Midlothian, with focus on improving personal confidence, health and wellbeing.  This support will enable them to make progress towards achieving social, educational and employment goals and to having purposeful lives.

The Support2Succeed team looks forward to working with existing organisations and to developing new partnerships to deliver a programme, which is meaningful and relevant to the young people using the service.  The team will make a big contribution to the Bridges Project’s goal of inspiring young people in Midlothian and East Lothian to build a confident future.  Bridges Project is grateful to the Scottish Government and the European Social Fund for this investment in young people and in the organisation.

For more details, please contact Pauline or Nicola on 0131 665 1621.

The Kindness of Strangers

Folk are generally supportive about the work we do with young people.  Folk we know: teachers; social workers; housing officers; nurses; mums; dads and others who have a live connection to the Project.  It’s great to get positive feedback.  It’s great to be able to celebrate the success of young people with them and their families.  We’re proud as punch when they feel positive about and empowered by successfully navigated routes to achieving life milestones.  Leaving school to got to college.  Leaving homeless accommodation to set up their first tenancy.  Completing a training course or getting their first job!  Once in a while, we are invited to celebrate other events: the birth of a child; a college graduation or the tearing up of L driver plates.  We are used to celebrating in our somewhat self-contained world.  We love it!

It always comes as a great surprise when we are invited to celebrate with people who live their lives outside our ‘bubble’.  We can be so intent on what we do every day, we sometimes forget to lift our heads high enough to realise we are more connected than we think.  What a buzz we got when Katrina, the daughter of Allen and Christine Simpson, contacted us to let us know that her parents were keen that guests at their upcoming joint 60th birthday party make a donation to Bridges Project in lieu of birthday presents.  Allen knew about our work through his many years of voluntary service as a Children’s Hearings Panel member and is well tuned in to the needs of vulnerable children and young people.  That relative strangers should so kindly think of us when they are celebrating their own important milestones is genuinely humbling.  Christine and Allen’s birthday party went with a swing.  Their guests and family were incredibly generous to Bridges Project and the evening raised an amazing £530 for Bridges. We are grateful to Christine, Allen, Katrina and their guests for thinking about us and being so kind.  We are grateful to be reminded that acts of kindness – in sentiment and deed – are everyday occurrences and that we should be lifting our heads above the parapets a little more often to share and celebrate them.

Cyberbullying – A Devastating Impact

Ruth works with our Transitions Team in all six East Lothian secondary schools.  She introduced her North Berwick employability group to Screen Education Edinburgh to explore issues around cyberbullying.  Screen Education Edinburgh used CashBack for Creativity funding to work with the group after school over a number of weeks to produce a short film on cyberbullying.  The group were involved in storyboarding, scripting, acting and all matters of filming.  Their powerful story is told in the short film here:

The pupils should be proud of their work and for raising such an important issue.  The film is an excellent example of meaningful collaborative working among schools, third sector agencies and funding partners which puts young people in control of their learning and development.  It addresses an issue which affects so many young people in Scotland in and out of school.  We are proud to be associated with the group and with the organisations involved.  Every participant contributed.  They are genuine community assets and are credits to their families, school and themselves.

Launch of Way2Work#CashBack

We’re not being sent out for tartan ink or being asked to wait at the corner for the arrival of the long stand on 1 April.  There will be no fool’s errands for Bridges Project staff, as they will all be too busy launching a new service – Way2Work#CashBack!  An award of up to £409,000 over three years from the Scottish Government’s CashBack for Communities programme (Phase 4) will enable Bridges Project to provide a bespoke, quality service which opens doors of opportunity for young people who are aged 14 to 21 years in Midlothian and East Lothian.

Way2Work#CashBack will provide a mix of individual and group based interventions which address the needs of young people who are struggling to overcome the barriers to inclusion on their personal journeys to employment. Our experienced staff will build on the good will of local employers, communities and elected members and maximise the benefits of new and existing collaborations with third sector, local authority and educational partners to provide meaningful and sustainable opportunities for young people to make the most of what they can be.

We’re grateful; to be working alongside our longstanding partners from across the delivery spectrum in both local authority areas and look forward, very much, to new working relationships with Morrison Construction, Workingrite, the British Army’s 6 Scots, Bruce Robertson Training and Playback Ice.  We’re delighted, too, to be able to plug in to the services provided by the Phase 4 ‘family’ of CashBack organisation and to benefit from the support provided by Inspiring Scotland

Way2Work#CashBack will be challenging for young people who will be expected to take control of their own pathways to employment and create portfolios which address skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work.  The mix of individual support, accredited learning and placement opportunities will be guided by staff.  Ultimately, however, it will be up to each individual participant to make the choices they want to: improve personal capacity and confidence; positively change behaviours and grow aspirations; improve personal wellbeing; become more connected and improve attainment and engage with purpose in learning, employability and employment opportunities on their pathways to positive destinations.  Our many years of experience has shown us that being involved, taking control and becoming empowered can be extremely challenging for young people who are more used to feeling disconnected, passive and supplicant.  We’re not in the business of trying to squeeze square pegs in to round holes.  We’re confident that this investment in a bespoke approach by the Scottish Government will make a genuine difference to the lives of local young people who strive to be successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

The Robertson Trust Grant

We are delighted to receive an award of £45,000 over three years from The Robertson Trust to support the work of our specialist Tutor Service.  The grant enables the service to deliver regular, tailored one-to-one, needs led literacy and mathematics tuition and educational and study support for 40 young people each year. We will also run a demand led educational support programme including: college preparation groups; work placement preparation groups; maths support group and animal care study support groups.  A programme of skills for life groups is planned including: money management; money handling; independent living skills and a range of cultural and learning opportunities such as theatre performances, science festival visits etc.tutors-261016


The beneficiary group is young people aged 14 to 21 years, all of whom have diverse and complex needs as a consequence of circumstances and/or personal difficulties.  We hope, specifically, to be able to work with young people who are involved in the youth justice system; have a history of being looked after by the local authority; have missed schooling due to refusal and exclusion, illness, family trauma, bereavement, homelessness, caring responsibilities for family members or were bullied at school.  Our tutors will work with young people who have personal barriers to overcome, such as: mental health problems; addiction issues; social isolation and mild learning difficulties including higher functioning autism.  Historically, the young people accessing the Tutor service have not achieved their potential whilst at school and have missed out on the benefits of the educational process.  They leave formal education with poor basic skills and feel disconnected from mainstream further education and training pathways.  The Tutors will deliver an educational experience which will help to improve aspirations by building on strengths and addressing weaknesses and ultimately create individual pathways towards attainment in further education, employment or training.  Staff and trustees are grateful for the generous investment in the futures of young people by The Robertson Trust and look froward to a fruitful partnership over the next three years.

For more information about the service and how to make a referral, please contact Emma Scarcliffe, our Practice Manager on 0131 665 1621.

A volunteer’s experience

ELMy first encounter with Bridges Project was on a school visit in 2013 when I was part of a pupil charity fundraising group at Knox Academy in Haddington.  After finding out about all the inspiring work this organisation does to support young people, I knew that one day I would want to come back myself and volunteer with them.  I started my volunteering placement here at the start of June 2016, during the summer break from my university studies in Glasgow, and finished up at the end of August.  The time has flown by and after two and a half months it is time to return to Glasgow to finish my degree in psychology.  I have met such kind and talented young people and have been working with them and my supervisor Sandie in small groups, facilitating activities such as art, cooking and debate.  I have thoroughly enjoyed working in the group programme.  The groups rarely have more more than six people which is great as you get to know those you are working with so much better!

I especially enjoyed cooking with the young people.  Bridges Project has excellent facilities which I could see the young people really appreciate and respect.  Plus, no dish was too EL2difficult; we have cooked complex fare like hot beef coconut curry and Thai fish soup which was very adventurous and delicious!  We have also rustled up some equally tasty yet classic dishes such as chicken pie and macaroni!

Not only has the volunteering itself been brilliant but the staff here have made me feel so welcome and at ease when working with young people, I am very thankful to them all for their support over the summer, I have learnt so much from them!  I also enjoyed my short stint as administrative assistant and have become the unofficial queen of the guillotine and laminator!  Getting good quality work experience at the same time as volunteering has been very useful indeed.

My whole experience at Bridges Project has been eye opening and has left me considering some potential new career pathways.  So, if you are considering volunteering in East Lothian with young people I would highly recommend this organisation.

Partnership working with Scotland’s National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery 3 National Portrait Gallery 2 National Portrait Gallery 1April 2016 ushered in a fantastic collaboration with the Outreach Team at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to introduce young people to exciting, participative contemporary art in Scotland.

Built around the themes of the Gallery’s ‘The UNTITLED/Bad Entertainment’ exhibition, young people from Bridges Project were able to explore what the Gallery and art in general has to offer them in today’s fast moving world of social media, online presence and reality television. Young people participated in mask making, photography and short video workshops to explore their personal stories and share their life experiences through the media of film and photography.

National Portrait Gallery 5 National Portrait Gallery 4Ably supported by Richie Cumming, Outreach Officer at the National Galleries of Scotland, Project Scotland volunteer, Pablo Gonzales and our own Sandie Wyles, the ‘team’ were very creative in their engagement with the exhibition and the Gallery, learning that the issues which present in their day to day lives have real relevance in the world of Scottish contemporary art.

We hope that this is just the start for the participants and that they will build on this experience and realise that art can be as accessible, meaningful and involved to them as Facebook, Instagram and reality television.

We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s Bairns

Bridges Project values the energy, expertise and new ideas which volunteers, interns and placement students bring to our work with young people. It’s particularly interesting for young people when new faces also bring experience of living and working in different countries and cultures. Over the years we have welcomed great people from Germany, Norway, USA, Sicily, Australia, France and Spain. It feels as if our garden has been visited by dragonflies! They arrive, bringing extra colour and vibrancy to the place and then leave after a short while. Each one of our overseas visitors has made an impression…left a footprint. We are all the better for this.

Photo of SabineThis spring has been particularly interesting for staff and young people at Bridges Project. We were really happy to welcome Sabine, a school social worker from the Danish speaking city of Flensburg, Schleswig-Holstein in the north of Germany on a short professional internship.

Photo of SamWe have just said goodbye to Sam, a Napier University Career Development placement student whose family roots are firmly embedded in the Yarouba Tribe of Western Nigeria and who worked in cosmopolitan London for a long time before heading north.

Photo of PabloPablo is our newest international team member. He is from Galicia in the north of Spain and after working in IT for a number of years in Spain and Edinburgh is now seeking a career change. Pablo is placed with Bridges Project through our partnership with Project Scotland.

In for the longer haul is Jacqueline, our Welsh student from Strathclyde University who is on placement with us as part of photo of Jacquelineher counselling training course.

We are enriched by their contributions and the sharing of cultural backgrounds. We hope they take something away with them which is of equal value. They are all, of course, expected to contribute to the growing culinary cornucopia of our young cooking group participants. And to wear ‘the hats’! to find out more about volunteering, placement and internship opportunities, please click here.

Celebrating 30 years of work with young people

Bridges Project welcomed its first referrals 30 years ago when staff were based in a small office in Cranston Street, Edinburgh.  At that time, our main focus was in helping young tenants across Bridges Project 30th Birthday Cakethe Lothians to make a success of their new homes.  Poverty, social isolation, anxiety, poorly connected social anchors, unemployment and welfare reform were just some of the issues young people and staff had to deal with on a daily basis.Fiona

Some things do not change much.   Whilst the Project has grown and services have been developed to meet growing need, many of the old personal barriers and structural obstacles remain for young people trying to make their way in the world.  Optimism, motivation, determination, resilience and a desire to succeed were the key strengths staff used back then to help young people build positive pathways to good futures.

Tenancy Award PresentationThese attributes are alive and well today and the whole team at Bridges Project was delighted to showcase just some the incredible work undertaken by young people at our 30th birthday Open Day.  125 visitors were treated to live music and video productions, home cooking, art work and personal pathway presentations.  Staff, young people and trustees were delighted by the show of good will to Bridges Project from parents, colleagues in the private, public and voluntary sector and by elected representatives. 

Young people were heavily involved in developing our new strap line which was launched on the day.  It feels very apt; whilst it is good to reflect on the past and learn from it, we need our young people to reach out to what lies ahead and we hope, very much to be inspiring young people to build a confident future for many years to come.


It’s always nice to feel appreciated for what we do. Our friends and regular donors, the members of Inner Wheel Club of Musselburgh, have been at it again – making us feel appreciated with a fantastic donation of £200 to support our work. The generosity of members over the last few years has been immense; we are delighted to be supported by this local organisation which is part of a much bigger whole. Find out more about their work here:

We are also one of the charity beneficiaries of the Microsoft Scotland annual fundraising Burns Supper.  Three members of staff enjoyed the food and hospitality at this year’s event on 28 January in the fabulous setting of the National Museum of Scotland.  Our share of the funds raised is a whopping £18,022!  We are grateful for being involved for the third year in a row with the Microsoft Scotland event and for the generosity of Microsoft Scotland and its partners.

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