Founded in 1999, Forget Me Not Club is a charity based in Banchory which supports people with Dementia. As well as providing help and activities for clients, the charity also provides in-depth education and support for carers. This includes a six week training program which covers areas such as pharmacy, benefits, care management, taking care of yourself and meaningful activities at home. They also provide day respite and complimentary therapies for carers.

Heather Morrison, Manager at Forget Me Not, was keen to set up an art therapy group for Forget Me Not’s clients. It was soon recognised that the existing team did not have the full range of expertise necessary to run such a session and this could be a good opportunity for art students to get involved in the project. Heather contacted Talent Exchange and has since been working with five student volunteers from Gray’s School of Art. We caught up with Heather to discuss her experience of working with the students.

What prompted you to contact Talent Exchange?

We felt that we were under qualified to set up an art therapy session for our clients and we were looking to get some expertise. We decided that this would be a perfect opportunity for students with art backgrounds to get involved and bring that expertise.

Can you please describe the process which led to your engagement with the students through Talent Exchange?

I met a member of the Talent Exchange team at a networking event who then passed the details of the project on to Gray’s Art School. I met with an academic member of staff and the students and we had a good conversation about the direction that the art therapy sessions could go in. The 5 students were interested in looking at dementia and developing a different approach to the service that we could provide the clients.

Can you describe the project that was undertaken?

The students helped to set up an art therapy class at the centre in Banchory. The class was held every Friday morning and the students came very well prepared. They had clearly done some private research and looked into ways that the clients could engage with art. They made a huge effort to be accommodating and meet people at their point of need. They contributed fresh ideas every week.

What was the outcome of the project?

They absolutely exceeded our expectations. They opened our eyes to so many different possibilities and we have been able to take the project much further than anticipated thanks to them.

How did you work with the students?

The students came in every Friday morning for the art therapy class so I was always around then if they needed one to one support and I would go through with them what their plan was for the session.

How do you think the students benefited?

I think it gave them a much better understanding of working in the third sector, and their understanding of dementia and the capabilities of those suffering with dementia became much broader. They were blown away by how engaged our clients were and the level of ability in the class.

How do you feel your business benefitted overall?

Forget Me Not has benefited by the involvement of the students in a number of ways. We benefitted from young people giving us their time and talents. Their passion rubbed off on the staff, volunteers and clients. Many of the clients’ family and friends commented on the positive impact it had. We have developed new methods of engagement, different mediums to use at sessions, access to a wider variety of resources and some amazing Christmas Decorations! We benefitted tremendously.

What would your advice be to others considering working on a project with RGU students?

My experience was excellent. It was very worthwhile; I was given total respect and felt very involved in the process. It was very good.

For more information on Talent Exchange, visit the Talent Exchange webpages or to talk to a member of the project team about a work experience opportunity email talentexchange@rgu.ac.uk or call 01224 262046.