Follow Footprints on road to survival

A NEW community group has been set up in Newtongrange to listen to local problems and act as a go-between for those suffering in silence.

Local woman Sharon O’Donnell decided to offer support to local people after she was approached by many men and woman who had suffered forms of abuse in the past.

And now her group Footprints Scotland will open premises on Main Street in the coming weeks.

Sharon, who runs a cafe in the village, explained that she needed premises so she could speak to people with problems in private and give them her full attention.

She also refused to call them victims instead referring to them as “survivors”.

She said: “A lot of survivors were approaching me, about all kinds of physical and mental abuse.

“I have them come in to the cafe and they are here for two hours or so just for a coffee and a blether and they leave feeling brilliant.

“But the problem is that if I have someone come in here we can’t hide anything, so we needed somewhere private.

“Our aim is to get our location fitted out as soon as possible. By the end of the month hopefully.

“Although we are on the main street, we have a back entrance so nobody will be seen coming or going.

“We want to get the place ready as quickly as we can as there is definitely a need but we don’t have a date just yet.”

The new support group will be run by volunteers and open through the week with a help-line available at the weekends.

Sharon said: “Our plan for the future is to work with other charities, acting as a go-between. We also want to work with the schools and the police.

“It’s the feeling of not being believed and that they are to blame that frightens survivors. This is about trust, and they trust me.

“Some people don’t want to face the doctors etc, they can come to us first. You are not on your own when you know someone that has gone through it before and so understands what you are going through.

“It’s not judging them, whatever they have been through.

“Whether it’s rape, child abuse – it’s about listening to them and being there for someone and maybe giving them guidance.”

The group has already set up a football team and held a fun day at Newtongrange Star last month which raised £1,500 to get Footprints set-up.

Sharon thanked local businesses for their help, and plans to hold more fun days in the future.

She added that the football team is made up of survivors and is motivating them to “get out the house” – restoring their confidence.

Although primarily offering support for people that have suffered abuse, Sharon is adamant that the group is open to all of the community.

“We are not specifically for people that have had something happen to them, it’s for support too,” she said.

“It’s for everything and everyone in Midlothian.

“For example, we want to help old people during the winter.

“We could go and collect their messages or clear the snow from their path.

“I think this will get bigger and bigger. We have got staff in every day and we have girls that will help when needed.

“There is also people in the background wanting to help more. It’s a real team here, everyone is here to help. But we have got to find our feet first.”

l The names of the women telling us their stories have been changed to protect their identity.