I love Parliamentary Recess! Not just because I’m lucky enough to get away on holiday during recess, but because I get out and about more and meet lots of interesting local people.
I’ve written before about how I’m often stunned by the amount of voluntary work done by people in East Kilbride. Young people like Jenny Cook and Sam Hanna fundraising for the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity. Octogenarians like the smashing Jim Hilliard constantly campaigning for the rights and the comfort of those suffering from Parkinsons disease. And loads in-between.
Whether its awareness raising of national and international matters, or hands-on help for those who need it most, East Kilbride residents are certainly active. In the past week alone I’ve met with groups of volunteers in many fields of life, and with individuals who want to start up charities and groups because they know that their own personal experiences can help others.
I’ve visited the wonderful East Kilbride Library twice in the last couple of days – that’s a real community resource in the town with dedicated staff that provide an excellent service to residents and are always open to new ideas. Today, I was honoured to attend the launch by Cllr David Watson of an excellent new initiative in the town. In conjunction with South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture, NHS Lanarkshire and the East Kilbride Wellbeing Hub, Macmillan Cancer Care have opened the Cancer Information and Support Services Drop-In Centre.
The Macmillan Hub is a permanent fixture in the Library, loads of information leaflets on hand covering all aspects, medical and social, of dealing with cancer. There’s also a drop-in service, staffed by volunteers, on Mondays from 11 am until 1 pm. Wellbeing services, relaxtion and massare, are offered too in a private room. An inspiring lady called Anne Court, who has been through the mill with her cancer, summed up the benefit of the Macmillan Hub which she used in North Lanarkshire. She noted that the hospital “looked after the physical side of cancer, whilst the Drop-In service looked after everything else”. Whether it’s help with financial worries, information required, or emotional support, the Macmillan Hub volunteers are there to help.
The Library hosted Cllr Collette Stevenson and I too, on Friday, when we went along to meet the Adult Learners Partnership Health in the Community Team. I had previously hosted the Team in our Parliament when we discussed potential projects that required research and work. They chose to research and report on ‘holiday hunger’ and we were well impressed with the standard of presentation. Gave us much to consider. The ‘holiday hunger’ report focussed on how difficult it could be for local families on low incomes, or going through hard times, during the long school holidays. Issues of food and clothing poverty, having to constantly say ‘no’, and of course the stigma for children whose peers are more fortunate and able to return to school with stories of what a great summer they’ve had.
The Scottish Government has of course introduced universal free school meals for younger children and increased the school uniform grant. South Lanarkshire Council is working on various breakfast club/holiday lunch initiatives. That all helps. I am impressed though at the intention of the Team to put their words into action, campaign for further change and consider how they can help – all voluntary. More power to their collective elbow!
Sunday was poignant, with the annual Hiroshima Commemoration at East Kilbride’s Peace Tree in Churchill Avenue. Again, volunteers who have kept the flame of peace alive for many, many years; making sure that we never forget those who died and reminding us of the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons, despite the rhetoric of disarmament over all these years. At the last count nine nuclear armed States possessed a total of around 14,900 nuclear weapons. That includes the UK of course, with Trident on our shores at Faslane. Westminster voted to renew Trident at a cost of some £200 billion, that’s 200 thousand, million pounds! And here we are talking about our families worrying about how to feed their children during the school holidays. Topsy-turvy world.