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The Ardross-man

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

My charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, which runs out of church hall building of the former Barony St John’s Church in Ardrossan has been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

As you may know, we provide empowering Personal Safety and self defence training to vulnerable groups and individuals including female survivors of violence, people who are sensory impaired, children and youths, people with dwarfism and people from LGBTI and ethnic minority communities…and we do it all with only 9 volunteer Instructors, no paid staff.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups that benefits their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.

We will receive the award from the Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire and Arran, Sheriff Iona Sara McDonald, later this summer….and two of our volunteers will attend a garden party at Holyroodhouse in July 2021.

We are absolutely thrilled and delighted that our charity’s work in empowering vulnerable people has been recognised with such a prestigious award from Her Majesty, The Queen.

I would like to pay tribute to the hard work and commitment of our volunteers, both present and past, as they give up their time and skills free of charge to enable us to function.

To all our volunteers, I’d like to say a heartfelt “Thank You”.

You are simply The Best.

Board of Trustees – vacancy

I hope you are all well and keeping yourselves safe from this virus outbreak.

These last couple of months since the lockdown and the temporary closure of our Barony St John Centre in Ardrossan have been very difficult for my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety.

We depend upon the evening rental of our hall to local groups (North Ayrshire Muay Thai, McMillan Boxfit, Tai Chi, etc.) to pay for our running costs of heating, lighting, building and instructor insurance, etc. and being closed means our funds are gradually running low.

Obviously, there are a few funders which have been set up to help charities affected by the Coronavirus lockdown and we have applied to a couple but have not heard anything back yet. Our fingers are crossed though.

But last week, we also received the devastating news that the Chair of our charity, Pamela Anderson (no, not of Baywatch fame but of Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce fame) informed us of her decision to resign from her post due to ill health.

Pamela has amassed a great deal of knowledge encompassing human resources and employment law from a career spanning small private companies, large corporate organisations and local authorities – and she will be sadly missed.

So, would YOU like to join our Board? Well, let me tell you a bit about our charity;

The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety provides empowering Personal Safety, Conflict Resolution and practical self defence training to businesses, groups and individuals but particularly vulnerable people targeted by Hate Crime.

We help female survivors of violence (rape, sexual abuse and domestic abuse); LGBTI groups; ethnic minority groups; and people who are sensory impaired; to name but a few.

Our Charity’s mission is to potentially save lives by;

  • The provision of practical training and solutions to help people avoid violence and aggression.
  • The raising of awareness of the importance of personal safety in Scottish communities.
  • The provision of a point of contact for those who are at risk of violence or those seeking advice in Scotland.
  • The reduction of the fear of crime throughout Scotland.

 

Our objective is simply to empower individuals to manage safer lives.

And we sum up our aims and objectives in one, very powerful statement;

We champion equality, diversity and human rights as defining values of our charity.

We promote equality of opportunity for all, empowering every individual to achieve their potential, free from prejudice and discrimination.

Unfortunately, Board resignations due to ill health have left us now looking for THREE Trustee posts to fill.

The Board only meet in our Centre once per quarter (July, October, January and April of each year) with each meeting only lasting approximately 2 hours. So basically, we are only looking for a minimum of 8 hours commitment per year.

If your background connects with our charity and the people we help, and you are interested in joining the Board of our multi award-winning charity, please get in touch with me at alan@ScotCPS.org.uk and I will answer any questions you may have and send you a copy of our Constitution to read over.

Thanking you in advance, for your interest

Alan Bell

The Ardrossman

Door replacement

I mentioned in a previous article that we had Resource Efficient Scotland (RES) in at our Barony St John Centre for an energy saving survey. Well, they made a number of suggestions which I hope to achieve and tell you about over the next few months but one of those suggestions was to replace the main entrance door to our Centre.

You see, I knew we had problems with wind and water ingress around windows and I knew we could do with an upgraded heating system and extra insulation but one of the biggest culprits of heat loss in our building was staring me in the face and I just never clicked until RES told me.

Sometimes you just can’t see the wood for the trees……and this wooden door was a major problem.

           

The entrance door to the Barony St John takes the full brunt of the winds from the sea and over the years it has gradually rotted in places.

Additionally, a wooden door is not the best for energy efficiency. It swells and contracts with heat. So, in the Summer time it is fine but in the Winter months, it contracts allowing the wind and rain to penetrate into the building and drives the warmth of the building out.

Obvious really but like most things that stare you in the face, it never registered with me until they mentioned it.

RES suggested we replace the door and frame with a more solid and energy efficient PVC door with sealed edges. This would not only make the building more energy efficient but also make it more secure.

I had a chat with the Council’s Planning Department and they agreed that the door could be replaced – as long as the door and the frame stayed the same colour…red.

Keeping it red, especially with a red frame added a lot to the overall cost but needs must and by mid-March, the door had been made (you can’t just buy an off the shelf door as the door dimensions of church buildings aren’t the same as a house or office).

The old door was taken out.

And the new door put in.

         

And what a difference it has made. The temperature has increased in our doorway by 6 degrees on bad weather days.

If you would like to help me fundraise for the repairs and renewals to make the Barony St John Centre wind and watertight, please get in touch.

I will keep you posted on all the renovation works.

Goodbye for now.

Coronavirus

Monday 16th March 2020 was a sad day for me. I had to suspend the services of my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, and temporarily close our base, the Barony St John Centre in Ardrossan, due to the coronavirus.

The day before, Sunday 15th, I had to seriously think about these measures. Many of the people we help through the provision of our Personal Safety courses are vulnerable and all of training we provide has a hands-on element as we teach practical self defence skills.

The virus outbreak had meant that our volunteer trainers had to sanitize their hands before and after every self defence technique was demonstrated and then every participant had to do the same. We could go through a bottle of sanitizer per training session.

Another issue that weighed heavily on me was that I had a duty of care towards my volunteers, many of whom, including myself, have their own health problems.

Taking this all into account, I felt I had no option other than to suspend our training courses.

Now, I could have decided to leave our Centre open for evening classes, even although the cost of providing equipment and hand sanitizer for our gym users combined with heating bills would far outweigh any hall rental we receive, but things took an unexpected turn when I developed a sore throat and a sporadic cough. This was enough for me to be advised to self-isolate probably due to my lung condition and even although I’m pretty sure this has nothing to do with the coronavirus.

For any other charity or organisation, the containment of the founder would not be an issue, however I not only develop and teach the courses we provide; I also clean the Centre every day and without my input, there would be no-one to clean the gym equipment, punchbags, floor mats, sterilize the boxing gloves, clean the toilets and reception, etc. etc.

The cleaner we hire to come in once per week just couldn’t cope with all these added duties never mind the additional expense.

But there was another problem; I had been in the Centre on a daily basis, so if I was infected, the Centre could be too.

It was too high a risk. The Centre had to close.

Initially, some people felt I had “jumped the gun” and closed the charity’s activities prematurely but as Monday 16th wore on, I started to see more of our partner organisations follow suit.

RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) suspended their group activities; Deafblind Scotland cancelled all meetings and social activities; and Scottish War Blinded closed their Centres completely.

I felt vindicated. Closing our Centre was the right thing to do, partially as we have the added responsibility of being a nationally recognised charity.

Since then, I have had time to ponder over this outbreak and its consequences;

We were initially told not to panic buy so those of us who didn’t soon became faced with the reality that now that they needed basic food items and supplies, there just wasn’t any left. The shelves are always bare.

People are going mad, fighting over toilet rolls and pasta – and this was only in the first week or so of the virus – even before the Prime Minister asked people to stay at home.

It reminded me of the TV show “The Walking Dead” where the world has been taken over by a virus which has turned people into zombies.

I remember watching this show about six years ago and seeing the “good” survivors fight the “bad” survivors as well as the zombies. It was an apocalyptic vision.

Unfortunately, this vision is all too easy to visualise now as things begin to spiral out of control with this virus. Even the name, COVID 19, has some kind of zombie connotations for me.

As I watched people fight over groceries and resort to fisticuffs over who was first in the till queue, I realised that there simply wouldn’t be good and bad survivors like in “The Walking Dead”. The good guys just wouldn’t be there. There is no room for compassion when it comes down to the last toilet roll.

No, the vision of the future I was beginning to have was more like the movie “Mad Max” where ALL the survivors are bad with a mean streak and able to kill anyone for whatever they need. I guess you would have to be like that just to survive.

This realisation depressed the hell out of me! Would I want to live in a world like that?

Luckily, there has been some good news as grocery stores enforce a “two items only” policy begin to have “Senior Citizen Opening Times” where the elderly can shop before anyone else without fear of being knocked over.

Hopefully, people will begin to calm down and show a bit of compassion. Stores will be stocked regularly, so if you can’t get certain foods today, they will hopefully be available tomorrow.

I’m hoping we can all be a bit more thoughtful and kinder to each other in the future. Let’s not fall out over a toilet roll.

Meanwhile, I will keep you posted on all the renovation works that are planned for the Barony St John Centre and if you would like to read more about my charity, visit http://www.ScotCPS.org.uk

Goodbye for now.

1889 – what a year!

With extensive work getting done on our hall building, I began to wonder how long this building has survived for.

It’s actually 131 years old being built in 1889.

So what was happening in 1889?

The Coca-Cola Company, then known as the Pemberton Medicine Company, was born in Atlanta, Georgia on 15th January.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) was founded on 17th February in Manchester and originally known as “The Plumage League” as they campaigned against the use of plumage in women’s clothing.

On 31 May, the Naval Defence Act was published and it dictated that the Royal Navy’s fleet strength must be equal to that of at least any two other countries in the world – obviously changed days as Britannia hasn’t ruled the waves for quite some time now.

Shockingly, it only became a crime to abuse a child from 26th August 1889 when “The Prevention of Cruelty to and Protection of Children Act” came into force.

And overseas, the last official bare-knuckle boxing title fight ever held was fought in Mississippi on 8th July 1889 between Heavyweight Champion, John L. Sullivan and contender Jake Kilrain.

Infamous gunslinger and latterly sheriff of Dodge City, Bat Masterson was employed as peacekeeper and official timekeeper of the fight which lasted 75 rounds – a total of two hours and 16 minutes of gruelling pugilism.

To make matters worse, back then, each round only had a thirty second rest period as opposed to sixty seconds nowadays and the temperature in the outdoor ring reached over 100 degrees in the blazing sun as a crowd of between 3,000 – 4,000 cheered them on.

If you think boxers these days are fit, they have nothing on bare-knuckle boxers of days gone by.

 

Award 2020

We got a Highly Commended certificate at the North Ayrshire Health & Social Care Partnership’s Staff Awards in the category of “Community Superheroes”.

 

Instructor Training Day – Feb 2020

I hold our bi-annual Instructor Training every February and September and last week we had our physical skills training update in our Barony St John Centre in Ardrossan.

My charity is The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety and we provide personal safety advice as well as practical self defence training to businesses, schools, groups and individuals but particularly vulnerable people.

We work with Police Scotland, Rape Crisis Scotland, ASSIST and various Women’s Aid groups to help female survivors of violence; we work with Open Ayrshire, Transmasculine Scotland  and various LGBT groups to help the LGBT community stay safe; we work with various ethnic minority groups across the country including the Rainbow Muslim Women group, Sikh Sanjog and Edinburgh Chinese School; we run free of charge personal safety and self defence workshops in Auchenharvie Academy and soon Ardrossan Academy with an invitation sent out to St Matthew’s Academy remaining to be answered; and we provide our award-winning Personal Safety course for People who are Sensory Impaired free of charge to to Deafblind Scotland, Forth Valley Sensory Centre, The Disability Resource Centre and of course people in Ayrshire who are sensory impaired.

Keeping our training and skills current is therefore paramount.

So, every February, our volunteer instructors gather from across Scotland and we revise the practical self defence techniques which we teach. We also revise our personal safety advice to ensure it is up to date and effective.

Every September, we gather again to update our knowledge of Child Protection, LGBTI definitions, People Trafficking, Sensory Impairment training, Health & Safety, Fire Prevention and First Aid.

It’s a pretty full on, eight-hour day but essential to not only keep our volunteers up to date with the Law and able to give accurate advice if asked, but also to kept our insurers and funders happy that we are all competent and our standards are high.

One of our blind volunteers, Yvette Robertson was also presented with a “No.1 Volunteer” trophy on behalf of the charity for her outstanding work over the last year.

If you would like to become a volunteer Personal Safety Instructor yourself, why not email me at Alan@ScotCPS.org.uk and I will tell you what it entails – or take a peak at our website http://www.ScotCPS.org.uk

Storm Ciara 2020

As the owner of the former Barony St John church and hall buildings on Ardrossan’s shorefront, winter is usually a fairly depressing time of the year for me.

Cold, wet weather and storms galore play havoc with public transport, making it difficult for the service users of our charity (The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety) to get to and from our Barony St John Centre, despite it being so close to bus and railway links.

Having the former Barony St John hall building can be a problem – we need to make sure it’s wind and watertight, which isn’t always easy in a 131-year-old building – but having the former church building to look after too, always proves to be a challenge.

The church building is 156-years-old and has been derelict, as far as I know, since 2010.

A couple of months ago during Storm Brendan, several parts of our buildings roof were damaged including the overhang roof from the hall building to the church building blew down and needed work on it to repair the damage. Luckily, we had sealed the doors to the church and hall back in November 2019, effectively separating both buildings, so the internal damage was minimal. But last week the Ardrossan coastline was once again battered – this time by Storm Ciara.

Storm Ciara proved to be much stronger than Storm Brendan and although no roofing was blown off our buildings this time, we did get quite severe water ingress into the church building.

Missing roof tiles meant roof leaks above the shore facing windows of the church and these have brought ceiling plasterwork down and sent water falling onto the upper gallery floor….which in turn, has seeped downwards, bringing down more ground floor ceiling plasterwork and creating a huge internal puddle at the main entrance of the church.

 

It doesn’t look good but at least the main structure of the building is still sound.

When my charity first came to Ardrossan back in 2015, I said I would give ourselves three years to renovate and equip the Barony St John Centre and open up to the public. This was achieved by 2016 and a Feasibility Study recommended that we try to convert the church building into an Events Centre as a secondary source of income for us.

I pledged to try to achieve this by 2020 but, reluctantly, I now have to admit defeat.

For many, this will be sad news but some of you reading this will be smiling now because some of you actively stood in our way, preventing us from developing the church building. But who loses out on this? Is it me? My charity? Or the people of Ardrossan who have lost a fantastic opportunity to increase jobs in the town, increase visitor spend in the town and also lost the chance of a great local venue for live bands, plays and exhibitions right on their doorstep?

Either way, without backing from the Council and the “movers and shakers” of Ardrossan, this dream cannot be turned into a reality – at least not on my watch.

It’s therefore time to face the reality; we will continue to own and improve the Barony St John hall building (our Centre), but it looks like, regrettably, we will have to put the former Barony St. John’s Church building up for sale later this year. Maybe someone else can develop the church into an Events Centre or flats or a dream home on the seafront?

We will however, continue to look into how the hall building can be developed and I will keep you posted of this progress, as well as the final destination of the church building as the year goes on.

 

 

Star of David Window replacement Day 3

Eureka….

The pains of glass have been replaced – and we now have a new window…

Complete with our logo in the middle 🙂

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