Words and Images Kerr Ferguson
Finding Your Feet Amputee Charity, bettering the lives of those who have lost limbs.
In a building in Paisley, a message is received about 85-year-old Cathy rock climbing whilst Hope, 28, talks of her latest silver medal in a world championship canoe race. Boundiala, 53, is taking part in a meditation workshop as pictures come in of Carys, 5, riding a bike for the first time.
They all happen to be linked by Finding Your Feet Amputee Charity – a nationwide effort to better the lives of those who have lost limbs or were born without.
And should the diversity of the people really come as a surprise? Not when you consider how many traumas, conditions, and infections can lead to losing a limb. Cancers, sepsis, diabetes, addiction, road traffic accidents – the list goes on and makes amputation totally non-discriminatory when it comes to those affected. There are no shark attack tales here today, though, even despite what Tony would have you believe when you ask him how he lost his leg. Such is the humour on show.
The Ampu-Teas meet up isn’t all that’s going on for the pun-loving charity today. Later there will be a darts tournament and a play-along music session. There’s private counselling taking place in one of the rooms upstairs, and in Dundee a group are playing bowls. An instructional online yoga session is scheduled for those who can’t make it along in person.
‘Eight years ago it was me and four other people meeting for a coffee in the hospital café,” says Cor Hutton, the charity’s founder. “Now we’re running over 80 activities per month for amputees all over the country.’
It’s a testament, she believes, to how much the services are needed. After losing her own legs and hands to a particularly fast-moving sepsis infection, the mum-of-one found herself out of physical rehabilitation and on her own with little to no peer support. She set up the charity to, in her own words, help herself as much as others.
Things kicked off in the early years with coffees and some physical fitness initiatives – the charity was instrumental in introducing amputee football to Scotland. Then feedback began to come in that the emotional battle for an amputee was just as tough, if not tougher, as the physical one.The charity now works with around five counsellors who provide private support to any amputee who may need it. There are quotes on leaflets from those who have taken part – more than one credit Finding Your Feet with saving their life.
It’s free of charge, as is everything they do, and the charity provide transport when needed. The well-being support extends to group workshops that focus on building confidence and resilience, and there are tentative plans to put a real focus on body image in 2023.
‘There’s rarely a case where we’ll say no to doing something. If an amputee comes to us with a suggestion or a problem, it’s our job to run an activity or find a solution. How can we teach these people to adapt to a new life if we don’t adapt as a support service?” Cor continues. “Of course, some things aren’t feasible, but we try.’
Over 800 amputees throughout Scotland receive support that spreads from this building, whether that’s in-person or online. The FYF Charity Hub, set up in 2021 to house local charities in one place, encouraging collaboration and networking. Alongside Finding Your Feet, there are organisations who provide support to carers, families, and people going through addiction. It is, by definition, one of the most charitable spaces around.
The ambitious project now sees charities paying lesser rates than they would elsewhere, and with a space to run whatever they might be doing to support service users. The second floor floor hosts daily rentals for events and conferences, and also boasts plenty of pieces by local artists who have agreed to give 30% back to the building from any sales.
Despite the smiles on show and the apparent success of the Hub, things are tough for Finding Your Feet – nay, every charity. The cost-of-living crisis presents a sort of perfect storm. Service users need more support, but supporters have less to give.
Finding Your Feet will take anything. They’re looking for volunteers to sort the coffees at meetings like this one, drivers to save money on transports, and, of course, good old donations. Events like the Kiltwalk are big events in their calendar, and people taking on personal challenges can see thousands raised.
In short, it all helps – and that’s the message they want to send to people. Even if you don’t know an amputee, the conditions listed earlier mean you could soon. Finding Your Feet want to be your chosen charity, and their door is open for them to have a chance to convince you.
‘I’m in no doubt we’re a vital service. The NHS have said as much. It’s just about survival now and being creative in how we ask people for their support, because we do need it more than ever,” Cor says as a talk on benefits is getting started in the background. “Like losing a limb, we adapt and we’ll thrive – but only with the help of people who can afford to give it.’