ON THE GROUND: Richmond's Hope, Edinburgh

Dominic Wood

Scheme: A church-based child bereavement centre in Edinburgh, dedicated to providing one-to-one assistance every weekday

Funding: £225,000 over three years, from the Community Fund (£128,000), Children in Need (£64,000), Lloyds TSB Foundation (£28,000) and the Scottish Churches Community Trust Fund (£5,000)

Objective: To provide traumatically bereaved children with a friendly environment to talk through their feelings

Richmond's Hope, which started in June, is a new arm of the Richmond Cafe Project charity which was founded by the Richmond Craigmillar Church in 2001.

In 1997, the church was vandalised and barely used, and the community had a high incidence of drug use. When Reverend Liz Henderson became its minister, she vowed "to make the community a part of the church and the church a part of the community".

Henderson began to oversee funeral arrangements for a dozen families where children had suffered the loss of a parent or sibling. "Adults were always encouraged to talk about their bereavement, while everyone assumed the children were fine not talking about their loss," said Henderson.

This lack of an emotional outlet for children became increasingly evident to the church as funeral arrangements led to greater contact with families.

In 1999, the church set up a music club to help bereaved children aged between four and 12 to express the feelings they struggled to voice at home. The club served as a temporary programme, while the church developed its professional service, now known as Richmond's Hope.

The service was set up through lottery grants, trusts and local fundraising.

It employs a project manager and two project workers, providing one-to-one sessions and group work with children who have suffered particularly traumatic bereavements, such as being the only person present when their parent died.

"We now give children a chance to express that hurt and deal with the feelings of guilt that often follow," said project manager Alison Littlejohn.

"Each child has an individual care programme, enabling them to live with their loss."

The project has helped 30 local children so far, and plans to have helped 100 children by the end of its first year. It was awarded the Spring Harvest Faithworks award in October, receiving an additional £10,000 from the Spring Harvest charity and ongoing strategic support from Christian movement Faithworks.

Lord Alton, a supporter of the project, said it was a "reminder to all churches that their faith has the power to transform people's lives and circumstances".

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