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Dads Work: Green Fingered Dads Making a Difference

27 February 2017

Dads Work, a community project in East Lothian provides support for vulnerable fathers and their children. It recognises that in the modern world, traditional family roles have changed, with the primary carer no longer being exclusively female and aims to redress the current imbalance of provision where the majority of support focuses on mothers/female carers.

They offer emotional, social and educational help where required, to enable fathers and male carers to be the best they can be. Activities include support groups, drop in sessions, positive parenting classes, workshops, counselling and day trips during the holiday periods. Dads Work has grown substantially from its first meeting in 2003 with just four men attending and now supports 60 – 70 men each month.

In 2015, the group received £1000 from Red Nose Day Community Cash to transform a piece of derelict waste ground in to a community garden in the heart of Musselburgh.

Thanks to in-kind support from two local building firms, Dads Work has created a secure garden which has 14 raised beds, a greenhouse, pizza oven, fire pit, container and picnic area.

All the work in the garden has been undertaken by the dads and their children, from cutting grass to building walls. They have made the space their own, by helping design it – a place where they can come together, share experiences and build new friendships. For some of the dads, who are unemployed, it has boosted their self-esteem and they have been able to develop skills which will allow them to re-enter the job market.

Even on rainy days, dads still utilise the garden. The container for storing tools, is also used as a place of refuge from the Scottish weather, allowing them to meet and chat with others.

For one dad, whose teenage son is in foster care, the time spent in the garden and sharing their experiences has enabled him to develop a positive relationship with his son. Not only has their relationship improved but the son has enjoyed learning new gardening skills, and is eager to pursue a career that involves the outdoors.

Neil Ferguson of Dads Work said “To many, a grant of £1000 may not seem like a large sum of money, but for a group like us, it can go a long way to helping the people we work with. The garden has been a great success. An unexpected outcome has been the support from the wider community and the sense of community spirit which has been generated.”

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