Praise for innovative community project that transforms lives

Kezia Dugdale
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale tries her hand at planing wood with workshop supervisor Tommy Steel and Rev Dr Richard Frazer.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale tried her hand at woodwork during a visit to an innovative social enterprise project in Edinburgh today.

She said the Grassmarket Community Project was a great example of how a Church of Scotland congregation had reimagined how it engaged and supported people in the community.

The initiative, established by Greyfriars Kirk, takes an innovative approach to creating community and providing sanctuary and support to participants, many of whom are amongst the most vulnerable of citizens.

Through mentoring, social enterprise, training and education in a nurturing environment, the project develops skills which enable participants to develop to their full potential and move away from cycles of failure.

As well as operating a community café and woodwork and tartan social enterprises, the Grassmarket Community Project offers a range of social integration and educational activities for members aimed at enhancing life skills and developing confidence.

These include cookery and baking classes, art, drama, IT, reading and writing, sewing and photography.

Miss Dugdale visited the centre today to meet Rev Dr Richard Frazer, minister at Greyfriars Kirk, as part of the Meet Your MSP project.

Spearheaded by the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO), the ecumenical programme aims to build links between Church congregations and recently elected members of the Scottish Parliament.

SCPO want church communities to be at the heart of the decisions that affect people’s everyday lives.

Miss Dugdale said she was very impressed by what she saw and heard.

“The Grassmarket Community Project is a great social enterprise project but it is also reimagining what churches can do in their communities,” she added.

“I am getting actively involved in it through the Church of Scotland’s Meet Your MSP project.”

Dr Frazer, who is the convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said Miss Dugdale is a regular visitor to the Grassmarket Community Project and a “great supporter”.

“We are really grateful that she came down today and has taken an interest in what we are doing,” he added.

“It is very important that politicians meet people on the ground, often those who don’t have their voices heard.

“Miss Dugdale seemed very willing and ready to engage with people.

“I am a big supporter of the Meet Your MSP project and I always think of the story of Jesus in the town of Jericho when he met a blind beggar called Bartimaeus.

“What Jesus did, in spite of knowing what the problem was, is ask him 'Bartimaeus, what do you want, what do you want me to do for you?’

“I think the more we can encourage politicians, policy makers and others to ask that kind of question of people, and not automatically assume that they know what they need , then it would benefit everyone in society.”