Shona MacLeod, manager of the Hebrides Alpha Project, at the project’s residential unit in Upper Coll
A residential recovery programme for islanders with addiction would quickly “become unsustainable” without the grant support it receives from community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust.
The Hebrides Alpha Project received £15,000 from Point and Sandwick Trust last month (May).
Shona MacLeod, manager of the Hebrides Alpha Project, said they were “so grateful” for the support from Point and Sandwick Trust, which goes towards salaries and other administrative costs such as travel and amounts to nearly half the money that Hebrides Alpha has to raise each year, just to keep the project going.
The money comes out of the profits from Point and Sandwick Trust’s three turbine wind farm which is 100 per cent community owned.
Point and Sandwick Trust has committed £30,000 a year to the Hebrides Alpha Project – one of its biggest commitments after Bethesda Care Home and Hospice, which gets £55,000 a year.
Speaking at Hebrides Alpha’s residential unit in Upper Coll, manager Shona said the funding had made “a massive difference” to the project.
“It has kept us able to sustain the project, basically. Without it, we would be going further and further into debt and the project would soon become unsustainable financially.”
She added: “What I really like about Point and Sandwick Trust is that it’s supporting local charities. Bethesda and ourselves have been locally set up to help local people.
“We don’t take referrals from the mainland so it’s very much local charities supporting local people and we appreciate the help from Point and Sandwick so much.”
The Hebrides Alpha Project is a charity which has been running since 2006. The residential unit opened in 2011and incorporates an in-house recovery programme for up to six people at a time with serious addiction.
It has a subsidiary business, Hebrides Alpha Trading, which offers window cleaning, power washing and other services to the public while also providing therapeutic employment to people who are taking part in the rehab project. However, the trading arm does not fund it.
Addressing this misconception, Shona said: “In terms of funding, the window cleaning and power washing side of the project is not able to contribute significant finances at all so the majority of the finances has to be sought elsewhere.
“We do realise that some people who pay for their windows etc may be under the impression that this is funding the supported accommodation – but this is not the case.
“However, the Hebrides Alpha Trading side of the service is offering a very valuable opportunity for persons with addictions in terms of therapeutic employment and this is an essential part of recovery also.”
People who are taking part in the project are required to spend two days a week in therapeutic employment, geared towards improving their job prospects, and some of them choose to work with Hebrides Alpha Trading.
They are also required to attend a community self-help group, either Alcoholics Anonymous or Road to Recovery, twice a week, and research has found this kind of group to be effective.
The programme also offers individual counselling but detox always begins in the community, under nursing care.
Point and Sandwick Trust general manager Donald John MacSween said Hebrides Alpha was “a key project”, identified in the charity’s community development plan.
“The Western Isles has one of the highest incidents of alcohol and drug use in the UK and Hebrides Alpha are providing a much-needed rehabilitation service, available locally for the first time.”
Shona, also a social worker and counsellor, said: “There’s a number of residents we’ve had whose chances of dying if they didn’t come in to the unit have been significantly high. There are so many medical complications which result from continual substance use. It is very damaging to both physical and mental health.”
“Currently we have some remarkably talented and hard working residents within the project. One resident has totally revitalised his gift in art and has produced beautiful paintings which we have photographed and turned into greetings cards to sell to raise funds for the project.
“Two other residents have totally transformed our garden area by painting and planting and generally ensuring that the place is tidy and weed-free all round.
“For all of the above we are extremely grateful.”
Another update is that the project has a new website – hebridesalphaproject.org – and a Facebook page, @HebridesAlphaProject.
Funding remains a concern, though, and they continued to seek new sources of income.
“Reverend Tommy MacNeil, chair of the Hebrides Alpha Project board of directors, said they were “delighted to be one of the beneficiaries of the work that Point and Sandwick are doing”.
He added: “The support that we’re receiving will not only help the individuals but it’s got the wider impact of helping and supporting their families too.”