Sweetpea Charity supports the Fostering Compassion project, piloted in East Lothian, Scotland in 2013 with a group of ten children. It became very clear, very quickly, there was a desperate need for a project of this nature.
Since Sweetpea has partnered with Fostering Compassion we have been able to develop and expand the project to other areas of Scotland throughout 2014 and work with 50 children across three further areas. Throughout 2015 we will continue to work in partnership to grow the project and this year will welcome 100 children from across five areas to the Fostering Compassion workshops and activities.
Following studies in the past, there is a weight of evidence showing that children who have suffered abuse and neglect find it hard to show compassion to fellow creatures and indeed in general. Their difficult and traumatic starts in life may mean they struggle to express their emotions – which may then manifest itself as indifference towards animals and other people as a ‘pecking order’ develops. Through Fostering Compassion we hope to play a part in reversing this negative cycle, turning potentially worrying behaviour into nurturing, caring and compassionate behaviour.
“The Fostering Compassion project most definitely works wonders with the children.”
“Being part of Fostering Compassion has helped improve my child’s feelings of self-worth.”
The children we are working with are ‘looked after’ children in foster and kinship care. They come from chaotic backgrounds and have been victims of or subjected to neglect, abuse, domestic violence and parental substance misuse. The children can be angry, confused, defiant, sad and troubled.
New workshops and activities are being developed and introduced each year. Here are just two elements included in the current programme:
- A visit to a bear sanctuary to meet and learn the stories of rescued ex circus bears. The children learn about the animals as well as the transition from their unhappy former lives to their new ones. The children often draw parallels with their own circumstances.
- Nature workshops, inspiring the children to enjoy, understand and appreciate nature and world around them. The children discover tools and techniques to develop their emotional literacy, resilience and awareness of their relationships with the people, animals and plants we share the planet with.
- Storytelling workshops for children’s well-being. The children are told engaging stories, full of action and emotion, showing them how others deal with problems. The stories ‘talk’ to the children about universal issues in their own lives. About aspiration, heroism, change, loss, humour and promise. They offer ‘emotional maps’ to help the listener find their way out of a situation that to them may feel hopeless. The stories show the child they are not alone in their own world of anxieties, fears, longings and hopes.
Opening these vulnerable children up to the world of animals, nature and stories through the various activities and workshops can give them a better understanding of their own circumstances. The activities help the children find new and healthier ways to deal with difficult emotions, memories and feelings without even realising they are doing so.
“Fostering Compassion helped the children understand more about how animals feel and that they feel the same way we do”
The positive outcomes achieved through this project include:
- Improved feelings of self-worth
- Better understanding of personal circumstances
- Developed understanding of how a loving and caring environment will help them thrive
- Understanding of why they were sad, frightened, couldn’t sleep or had nightmares
- Allows them to be children in a safe and fun environment
- Helps them think of others and their own actions and behaviours
- Focus on positives and positive thinking
- Improved creative skills and dexterity
When we asked one of the foster mothers how being part of the Fostering Compassion project helped in the care of her two foster children she said
“it helped us so much as a family. The children now both have a better understanding of what a family is all about and they both now understand how much they are loved and that we are never going to leave them or do anything to hurt them.”
Another foster mum told us
“the children drew beautiful pictures after their visit to the sanctuary. They were captivated by the bears’ pool and waterfall as they themselves find water very relaxing and calming and can relate to how it makes the bears happy. They drew pictures after their visit. When our little boy first came to live with us, if he was drawing, he would take a black crayon and press really hard on the paper and just draw round and round in angry circles. We used to call these ‘tornados’ as they were the little boy expressing his anger. His drawings are now full of colour and imagination.”