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Pioneering bullying scheme wins crowdfunding money

By Philip Murray

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Ron Williamson, from Mikeysline, which won the pitch for crowdfunding.
Ron Williamson, from Mikeysline, which won the pitch for crowdfunding.

LIFESAVING work to tackle bullying and social isolation among teens has received a £400 boost from an innovative Inverness crowdfunding event.

The cash was awarded to a new Mikeysline project after its pitch won over the audience at the latest Inverness Soup evening.

The event, at the Spectrum Centre, saw four worthy community causes gather together to pitch their projects to the public.

Everyone who attended paid £5, with the cash then being awarded to the most popular pitch.

The Mikeysline charity, which runs a suicide prevention helpline, won through with its new Mikey’s Mates scheme. This aims to train a dozen S5 pupil volunteers to spot the signs of bullying and social isolation among their peers. They can then offer a sympathetic ear and point them in the direction of teacher liaisons or Mikeysline volunteers.

The money is expected to be used towards the costs of two training days this summer, with the scheme then going live in the new school year.

Once up and running a girl and boy from each of six schools – three in Inverness and a trio from the wider area – will be trained to spot the signs.

Mikeysline’s Ron Williamson believes the project could be a potential lifesaver, while also giving the volunteer pupils an impressive skill to add to their CVs as they prepare for their future careers.

"We’ll be choosing the year five pupils not necessarily on academic background, but on their compassion and social skills," he said. "Then when they are in year six they will be Mikey’s Mates and will be able to look out for and help kids who are bullied in the playground or lonely."

He stressed that the volunteer pupils would not be expected to step in to break-up fights or go "clyping" to the teacher, but to offer a friendly shoulder and point those in need towards support – either from teachers or trained Mikeysline supporters.

"They will be offering an emotional hug," he continued. "Bullying affects social confidence which children can take with them into later life and into later relationships, and we want to break that cycle."

He added that the volunteer pupils could also benefit from the project. "Kids at that age might have already decided what they want to be after school – such as nurses – and these skills will help build their CV".

The £400 secured at the latest Inverness Soup day will cover around three-quarters of the cost of the two Mikey’s Mates training days that are planned this summer.

Inverness Soup’s organiser Fiona MacKenzie was delighted that the number of people who attended the crowdfunding event was higher than for its inaugural run. Around 80 people attended the latest Inverness Soup – up from around 60 at its first event.

And the response has spurred on hopes of a third Inverness Soup event later in the year.

"It has been a real success," she said. "There must have been about 80 people there which is really good.

"There were also a fair few people who came along who attended the first one, and hopefully we’ll do another Inverness Soup later in the year.

"It is really nice to see it grow and see the audience talking afterwards. Hopefully we might see a few collaborations among the groups who attended and we are trying to promote that – people helping each other so it is not just the group that ‘wins’ the money that benefits."

The three other causes which pitched to the latest event included the NessBookFest, which hoped to use the money to spread word and cover the costs of the events on its programme.

Arts in Merkinch was hoping to use the money to pay for first aid training, while the TruUnity dance group planned to use the cash towards the costs of a video project aimed at encouraging people to dance and improve their health.

Mr Williamson has praised Inverness Soup for opening up further fundraising opportunities to local groups and helping them to raise awareness of their work in the community.

"It is quite an innovative way of fundraising and showcases different aspects of each group’s work," he said.

More at invernesssoup.wordpress.com

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