Serve Scotland

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 12th September 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I apologise, Mr Stewart.

As Kate Forbes and David Stewart highlighted, when those of us who are not hitting the pubs and clubs are comfortably in bed, street pastors are out providing a listening ear and making sure that people who may well be feeling the effects of having had too much alcohol are okay. For example, they provide flip-flops to make the walk home that bit easier. Those who are involved with the scheme go through extensive and regular training, including in drug awareness.

Last year, I was delighted to attend the 10th anniversary celebration of the Havilah project, which is run by members of St Andrew’s parish church in Arbroath. Havilah began in response to the desire of some members to reach out to the many people in the local community who, for whatever reason, often find themselves excluded, isolated and unloved. It helps people who are struggling with addictions. Volunteers have also visited some of the service users who have been sent to prison, and some people, on leaving prison, make Havilah their first port of call because they know of the welcome that they will get. Angus Council and the Church of Scotland’s go for it fund provide financial support and, in 2015, the project was presented with the Queen’s award for voluntary service.

St Andrew’s church also works alongside Arbroath old and abbey church on operating a food bank in the town. As well as members of the two kirks donating food, supplies come from other churches and individuals beyond Arbroath. Having visited the food bank, I know of the invaluable service that it is providing to people who are in times of crisis.

The saying may well be that charity begins at home, but Angus South churches also play their part further afield. Kate Forbes touched on the Blythswood Care shoe box appeal, which delivers presents to children in eastern Europe who might well be going without the joys of Christmas, and Kirriemuir old parish church joins many other churches in acting as a collection point.

Returning to St Andrew’s church in Arbroath, I note that, 10 years ago, the Dalitso Project was started there after a group of seven young people visited Namisu orphan village and saw the tough conditions that the children were living in. Now an independent charity, it operates two day-care centres and orphan residences in Malawi, which care for more than 300 children and provide jobs for 30 staff. It is also working to build another classroom and pay for another teacher, and is currently working with local government to build a health centre so that people do not need to take a long trip to receive medical attention. It has responded to flooding and food shortages in the communities.

I welcome the co-ordinating role that is being taken by Serve Scotland across churches and other services, and thank all the church groups that are playing active roles in my constituency and across Scotland.