A CHILDREN’S charity which helps vulnerable youngsters find their voice by using experiences of rescue animals has launched a fundraising campaign after the number of people referred to it doubled during the pandemic.

East-Lothian based Fostering Compassion helped more than 400 children and young people in its unique workshops last year – twice as many as it was asked to help in 2019.

But while the number of youngsters, many of whom are in care, has increased, the humane education charity receives no public funding and did not qualify for any emergency Covid funding.

This week, it has launched a campaign to raise £20,023 by November 2023, when it will mark its 10th anniversary of providing support.

And founder Lesley Winton is appealing for people to help, asking supporters to consider pledging £50 each over the next two years – £2 a month – to help it reach its goal.

She said: “If we can get 400 people to raise £50 over the next two years we will meet our goal which will allow us to continue our work, which is more in demand than ever these days.”

The charity, which started in 2013 when it supported just 10 children, saw numbers rise over the last year with an increase in demand for help and a move to offer online workshops.

It is currently trialling one of its workshops with Dunbar Primary School and hopes to expand the service into more schools.

It’s workshops centre around helping children tap into their empathy and emotions by talking about the experiences of rescue animals and relating them to how they feel.

The work has proved extremely successful in helping children identified as struggling with behaviour or emotional issues.

One of Lesley’s old rescue dog’s, Mr T, features in one of her workshops, as she uses his story of coming in as an older dog and struggling to find the right home, and children are encouraged to create comfort boxes for dogs like Mr T who are being rehomed.

Through talking about the things the dog might need, from toothbrushes to ‘pee pads’ and dreamcatchers to help with nightmares, the children, aged three to 13, are encouraged to talk about their own experiences and form a common bond with the rescue animal's experiences.

The boxes, which are decorated by the children and include letters to the dogs, are then delivered to animal rescue charities by the team.

The charity has a range of workshops for different age groups and before the pandemic regularly brought rescue animals and therapy ponies into workshops to meet with youngsters.

Central to the teachings of the charity is compassion and founder Lesley said it was something that was needed now more than ever as children struggled to move forward following the last 18 months of disruption.

She said: “The world has never needed compassion more than it does now and that is why we are asking people to get behind our campaign to help us continue working with children and sharing our message and support.”

The charity’s new campaign launches this week.

Among ways people can support the campaign are:

  • Make a donation of any amount and Gift Aid it;
  • Pledge to donate or raise £50 by the end of 2023;
  • Sign up for a direct debit for two years for £2/3 per month;
  • Take a home collecting box and fill it with loose change;
  • Buy a Christmas gift certificate;
  • Buy a colourful doggy bandana to support the campaign.

To find out more or get involved, go to fosteringcompassion.org