My name is Pauline Buchan and I am the Strategic Manager of the Cottage Family Centre in Kirkcaldy Scotland, although most people know me as just Pauline from the Cottage and I like it that way.
I have been with the Cottage for almost 14 years in a management capacity however my journey with the Cottage started many years before this as a lone parent mum with 4 young children who was referred by my health visitor for support. I had been what is now referred to as a ‘looked after child', had left school with no qualifications and became homeless at the age of 16 years and the future looked pretty text book for a young person like me…bleak.
The Cottage Family Centre was established in 1987 by a group parents from a local school who were looking for somewhere they could meet up and where their children could play together. Many of the parents were bringing up children on their own, there was a lack of support networks available to them, and therefore they decided to create their own.
The group were offered accommodation to use; a 100-year-old farm cottage, which had previously been used as a social work office by the local authority Kirkcaldy District Council, and which was based 5 minutes from the local school in the Templehall area of Kirkcaldy.
Despite the condition of the building and the musty smell that hit you as you walked through the door, families made it their own and from there they the adopted the name the Cottage Family Centre.
In our organisation, we are passionate about providing real support to children and families who are facing a number of social challenges and traumatic experiences. The Cottage ethos is based on the principles of Social Justice, Human Rights and the Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) national approach in Scotland supporting children, young people and their families.
Over the last 3 years, while continuing to offer our support services, we had continued to see a real decline in families’ living standards with no additional money to renew, repair or replace items and minimal external support in terms of their extended families. Covid brought a tsunami of families who were previously on the very thin line of just managing to make ends meet. With resources becoming scarcer no matter whether as communities we tried to come together and share them, we couldn’t offer the level of practical support needed by families on a daily, weekly, monthly basis and therefore we reached out to our Patron, the Right Hon Gordon Brown and asked him if he knew anyone in management from Amazon and thankfully he did.
From an initial meeting with Amazon about the possibility of them donating household and key basic products for families living in poverty in Kirkcaldy, we have managed to sign a contract with Amazon for their surplus goods and pull together 14 retailers and companies to create the Big Hoose Fife Project which is providing surplus goods such as bedding, towels, clothing, footwear, nappies, crockery, cutlery….in short anything that makes a house a home. These items are given to families in need across Fife and now Edinburgh, Lothian's and Falkirk too.
Our organisation ensures that families really do receive the support they need in their time of need and we hope that this new project can be replicated across the UK and beyond soon too. With everyone working together, for the same aim, anything and everything is possible, bringing with it hope, aspiration and the belief for families that someone really does care.