It’s nearly the end of Small Charities Week and we’re taking the opportunity to talk to Helm’s Chief Executive, Ally Calder, about Helm, the work the team deliver and how the public can get involved to support Helm.

Ally, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’ve been Helm’s Chief Executive since 2020 and I have a background working in youth work charities focused on education, employment and homelessness. I’m really passionate about the work Helm does supporting young people and enabling them to dare to dream about their futures.

What do Helm do?

Helm has been supporting young people aged 15 to 25 years, in Dundee, to gain education and employment, for over 40 years. As a grassroots organisation we have maintained our connections with communities as we have grown to work across Tayside.

Informal education, learning based outside of the traditional classroom environment, and vocational ‘hands on’ experience are important elements of what we do at Helm. Our Learning Centres, Helm Autocare garage, Trades Centre and Lavish Lounge beauty salon are environments where young people can gain confidence, skills, qualifications and experience in a real work environment.

Helm has always run holistic support programmes such as healthy living, and physical and mental health support. We provide breakfast every day to make sure that everyone is well fed and ready to learn. We organise excursions across Tayside and further afield to learn in different environments and broaden horizons. Our art room and Art Therapist provide breathing space and support to deal with the difficulties that life can present. Young people have access to our in house gym and personal fitness instructor. Our allotment provides an opportunity to be outdoors and to understand the initial stages of growing food, starting to make the connection between growing food and healthy living. This in turn leads into young people spending time in our kitchen, making a variety of food for themselves, peers and staff. These sessions give opportunities for young people to gain qualifications in core and employability skills, as well as building confidence, teamwork and social skills.

We also run a housing project ‘Hame’ providing young people with a safe and secure place to live. Having a safe base gives them the stability they need to start to plan their futures.

Who can come to Helm? 

All young people are welcomed, and the Helm team are very experienced in positively engaging with young people from all backgrounds, abilities, interests and support needs.  Helm is a safe space to try new things and to find out what is available and what is possible. The Helm team will do everything they can to enable the young people they support to a path or destination that is right for them.

Previously Helm has supported young people who are carers, have anxiety, have had bad experiences at school, have care experiences or who struggle with mental health issues. We support any young person who needs Helm, with no judgements.

What challenges are young people facing at the moment?

At Helm, we recognise that the Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have caused a new set of challenges for young people and we are particularly well placed to support their needs during this turbulent transition as they move towards employment. Young people are at risk of becoming a lost generation due to the impact of Covid and we provide early stage support to enable all young people to engage with the employability provision we provide. We also have an onsite Art Therapist who can provide one to one support for any young people at Helm and are unique within Dundee offering this service to young people.

What is Art Therapy?

Art Therapy is not just for people who are creative or enjoy art, it is a safe space where young people are supported to work through issues, anxieties or personal barriers in a way that works for them. Helm’s Art Therapist creates a safe space where young people can work with a huge variety of materials and in the Helm Art Therapy room there is no such thing as too much mess, as long as it helps the young person.

Within Helm there are regular fun group sessions, without any therapeutic overtones, to help build the relationship between the Art Therapist and the young people. These groups also allow young people to try new things, express themselves and encourages creative thinking, decision making and problem solving.

There are also regular opportunities for young people to be supported 1-1 by Helm’s Art Therapist. These quieter, more dedicated sessions have a distinct focus on supporting that young person and their specific circumstances, but without the clinical and often negative connotations often associated with therapy.

Given all of the challenges young people are facing at the moment, it appears Helm is more crucial that ever these days. How can people in Tayside support the charity during Small Charities Week and beyond?

We are reliant on donations and volunteers to enable us to continue to deliver our life-changing services.

There are lots of ways companies and individuals can get involved to support our work to enable us to continue to support as many young people as possible. Companies can select Helm as their Charity partner and make donations or fundraise to support us. Individuals can take part in one of our exciting fundraising challenges or run their own event to raise vital funds and every penny raised will be directed towards our work with young people. People can also choose to volunteer for us, providing support behind the scenes.

During Small Charities Week it would be fantastic if the people of Tayside could rally behind us and reach out to the team to find out how they can get involved to support us. Email to find out more today!

Thanks Ally for taking the time to talk to us today, during Small Charities Week.