A recently-established north Fife charity – thought to be the only one of its kind in the country – is looking forward to its first full year of operation.
STAR (Sibling Therapeutic Assessment Retreat) was the idea a few years ago of foster parent Karen Morrison, who saw a vital need to provide a facility for brothers and sisters who found themselves separated in care or through adoption.
STAR – which is expected to be formally known as the simpler Siblings Together and Reunited in a few months time – has an impressive base near the Tay, between Hazleton crossroads and Newburgh.
The focal point in the former farm land is a giant wigwam, where youngsters enjoy such activities as story telling, dressing up, music and drama. Nearby is a large poly tunnel, complete with irrigation, where children can grow everything from strawberries to peas. It neatly ties in with its healthy eating programme, which has been awarded a grant from the National Health Service.
Other attractions for the boys and girls include a number of animals, including three Shetland ponies, generously donated by a local farmer. As well as being therapeutic, the animals offer an opportunity for the children to bond and care for the creatures.
Trustees and volunteers play a big part in STAR – from members of Cupar Round Table who helped erect fencing to assistants from an adult learning centre.
Other volunteers involve themselves with such tasks as grooming the ponies and providing some “hands-on” expertise in the garden area.
While the charity does much fund-raising itself, it has had enthusiastic support from a number of organisations and bodies.
After being established in 2013, STAR embarked on its quest for funding. Its big break came at the end of the year when, after a polished campaign, it secured substantial backing from the People’s Millions, a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund and ITV.
Last year saw the official opening of the STAR Experience and trial runs by several sibling groups.
To illustrate further its involvement in the local community, STAR will be hosting a special event in Cupar next Christmas, featuring Yvonne Gray dancers as well as local school children.
Karen said: “This year we are ready and excited for a, hopefully, full diary of sibling groups to attend, as well as offering STAR’s venue to selective parent/child contact.”
She adds: “There are currently around 16,000 children in care in Scotland.
“More than half of those children will have siblings who do not live with them.
“Regular quality contact between separated brothers and sisters does not always happen.
“For some, there is no contact at all.
“Where contact does happen, it is difficult to set up and maintain, and therefore typically results in contact taking place for a limited time, often in a poorly equipped room, where parents and social workers are also present.”
The STAR Experience, with its fun, learning environment, aims to foster emotional bonds and help overcome the trauma of being separated from parents and siblings.