Building a Better Auchinleck with our Creative Young Volunteers


Young volunteers carried out a Creative Community Asset Mapping activity which was aligned to the Place Standard framework. We launched our Community Events Ambassador Volunteer Team and held a session dedicated to discussing how the role will move forward. We also asked our older young volunteers, who are in the Events & Activities Assistant Volunteer role, to think about what projects they’d like to see.

We’re still buzzing with the energy from our Volunteer Workshop held at The Boswell Centre on Saturday 22nd February 2020.

We kicked off with a Creative Community Asset Mapping session. The young people used LEGO to build their favourite places in the area whilst we had a discussion about the positives and negatives of Auchinleck. Alison and Stuart were open-minded to the feedback from the young people and were surprised by some of the responses. They praised local natural spaces. There’s nice views when out walking and the A-Frame is good for cycling (it is safer than cycling in Auchinleck itself). This could be improved by more maps/walking trails, something the A-Frame site already does well. They also said Tesco and Dumfries House are good places to meet people.

“I like to take a walk up the hill [bing] at Highhouse.”

Sense of identity and belonging was poor. They said if you tell someone you’re from Auchinleck, they’ll change the subject. The mining heritage is dying out. There is a feeling that people don’t care about the community; this leads to problems such as littering and dog mess despite there being plenty of bins.

In terms of getting around, they feel public transport is expensive so people can’t afford to go outside Auchinleck. The alternative is a car and although having lots of cars shows there’s money in Auchinleck, there’s not enough parking and streets become overcrowded.

In terms of recreation, play areas get vandalised or get graffiti on them. Although there’s opportunities for people to do things, they don’t know what is available at the leisure centre (eg. fun swims for £3).

People don’t mix well. There are fights almost every day at Auchinleck Academy and it is predicted the frequency will increase at the new super school. Racism is a problem.

Young people like the opportunity to have their say but find it disappointing when organisations promise then don’t deliver.

Meet our new recruits!

The Community Events Ambassador Volunteer Team is made up of 6 volunteers: 3 pupils from Auchinleck Primary School and 3 pupils from St Patrick’s Primary School. Their role is to obtain feedback and ideas for events from other pupils at the school they attend and help promote events and activities ran by ACDI to their classmates.

The team discussed their ideas, with plenty of great suggestions showing they’re wise beyond their years.

‘Cereal Box Challenge’

Our Events & Activities Assistant Volunteers aged between 12 and 15 were asked to suggest a project within the framework of the ‘Cereal Box Challenge’.

  • Name: What would you call your project?
  • Description/Tagline: What will draw people to get involved?
  • Ingredients: What do you need for your project?
  • Nutritional info: How does the project benefit people?

Left to their own devices, using the inspiration from the discussions earlier in the day, here is what they came up with…
Project 1: “Help a Person Out” – ‘A place for everyone who feels different or just had nowhere to go, no-one should feel left out, a place where no-one is judged’ – Ingredients: a room in the community centre, volunteers, Facebook page so everyone knows, activities monthly – Nutritional info: You could get a reward or a day out, you could make new friends
Project 2: “Auchinleck Street Clean” – ‘Helping the streets of Auchinleck stay clean’ – Ingredients: People who are willing to help, bin bags, litter pickers, gloves – Nutritional value: Helps the community to sparkle and shine
Project 3: “Auchinleck: The Corner Café” – ‘Great rolls, drinks, hot drinks, great food and great staff members’ – Ingredients: Permission form council, cooking training, advertise on Facebook and posters in shops/pubs, more members of staff – Nutritional info: On the counter there is a charity box and some people will just chick some money into it (N.B. these are suggestions on how to improve an existing business)

These three volunteers confidently presented their ideas to the Community Events Ambassador Volunteer Team, Stuart, Alison and Annie Brown from the East Ayrshire Volunteer Centre.

Reflecting on Fun & Memories Hub


With our Fun and Memories Hub project ending in December 2018, I wanted to reflect on what we’ve achieved during the 9 months the project ran.

Activities at The Boswell Centre

Over the Summer Holidays, we held Auchinleck Summer Playscheme at The Boswell Centre. Weekly themed activities for children covered a diverse range of topics including space, reducing waste and circus skills. Each child had a Summer Playscheme Passport and received a stamp for each activity they participated in, giving them a sense of achievement. The children were put into 2 teams – one team called themselves ‘Team Talbot’ whilst the other called themselves ‘The Aliens’.

Throughout the year, we had three ‘seasonal’ discos: Easter, Hallowe’en and Christmas. We had an amazing turnout for the Hallowe’en Disco with 101 children coming along, all in wonderful costumes.

Our Volunteers

Volunteers lent a hand throughout the project; ensuring activities ran smoothly. Volunteers increased their skills and knowledge by taking part in First Aid and Promoting Positive Mental Health training courses.

Young volunteers also worked towards their Saltire Award, recording hours and showing their ongoing commitment to their role. I also had the pleasure of taking 2 of my young volunteers to the #ScotArt Ayrshire Workshop in Irvine where we selected a symbol to represent Ayrshire at the Hogmanay ceremony in Edinburgh. We then made wicker-and-wire saltire hearts.

I also asked our team of volunteers to think about how volunteering made a positive impact on their lives at our ‘Volunteering Lights Up My Life’ event.

Working with Local Schools

During the project, I had the privilege of working with some pupils from local schools.

 Part of the project was to look back on the past of Auchinleck. I had the pleasure of working with the P6/7 class of Auchinleck Primary School to dramatise stories from the lives of the residents of Pennylands Camp in the 1940s. The children did a great job at converting the stories they heard on the Cumnock History Group website into scripts then rehearsing these plays. They then performed to their friends and family at The Boswell Centre.

Having worked with the primary school on that project, I moved on to working with two S1 art classes at Auchinleck Academy. There we created twelve pieces of artwork to represent the Twelve Days of Christmas. These were displayed around Auchinleck during the month of December. It was wonderful to see the pupil’s creativity and great imagination!


The funding for this project was provided by East Ayrshire Council. This is the perfect opportunity for me to thank everyone who voted for us at the Young People’s Participatory Budgeting events in Cumnock and Drongan in March, where I had a stall. Without your support, these events and activities would not have been possible.

Volunteering Lights Up My Life: Winter 2018


Volunteers from ACDI got together on Thursday 29th November 2018 to work on a project which would add some light to the darkness – both literally and metaphorically!

Working in pairs, there was uncertainty about how the lanterns would turn out. Soon, however, from a pile of willow, structures for the lanterns emerged thanks to their handiwork.

We then took a break to discuss the positive impact volunteering has on the team before covering the lanterns in tissue paper – a very messy process! As we ran out of time, we finished the lanterns on Thursday 20th December before the Christmas Disco.

Jack shows off the finished moon lantern.

Volunteering & Kindness

We had some great conversations during the break. Responses included:

  • Volunteering lights up my life by seeing all the happy faces on the people I help.
  • Volunteering lights up my life by helping me to talk to groups of people without getting nervous.
  • Volunteering lights up my life by giving me confidence in social situations.
  • Volunteering lights up my life by giving me the opportunity to meet new people.
  • Volunteering lights up my life by being able to make people smile.

Volunteering has increased each volunteers self-confidence and they enjoy making a difference in their community. We keep track of each volunteer’s development at supervision sessions to ensure they get the support they need to make they impact they want. Giving time to help out in the community by volunteering is a kind thing to do; it allows you to build connections with people. Following on from hearing about what kindness means to ACDI’s employees, I asked volunteers for their thoughts. Responses from staff and volunteers included:

  • Kindness means treating people with respect and making sure you listen.
  • Kindness means helping someone in need.
  • Kindness means support.
  • Kindness means pausing to think about the consequences.
  • Kindness means helping others in need.
  • Kindness means showing people they matter.
  • Kindness means being polite and showing people respect.
  • Kindness means being a friendly person and helping out when you can.
  • Kindness means supporting others and helping others.
  • Kindness means respecting everyone.
  • Kindness means just being there.
  • Kindness means inclusion and open-mindedness.

The diverse range of responses show just how complex the concept of kindness is – something I’m exploring in more depth as part of the Kindness Innovation Network.

As a Volunteer Friendly organisation, we ensure that our volunteers are recognised for the contribution they make to the organisation and the wider community. At this event, it gave me great pleasure to present three Saltire Award certificates, Jack with his 50 hours, Logann with her 25 hours and Sarah with her 10 hours. Volunteers also received certificates from the Promoting Positive Mental Health course we participated in earlier in the year.

Click the thumbnails below to view the photos:

On the subject of kindness – I’d like to send some gratitude. Firstly, for the funding that allowed this to happen – thanks go to East Ayrshire Council and the members of the public who voted for us at the marketplace. Secondly, to Eden Project Communities for the inspiration. Thirdly to everyone at the Kindness Innovation Network for giving us these points to think about. And finally, to all the volunteers at ACDI – I’m so glad I will have the opportunity to continue to work with you during 2019!