One of our most familiar faces at The Yard is celebrating two significant milestones this year. Playworker Ronnie McQueen celebrates his 50th birthday today and his tenth year at The Yard! Ronnie discovered The Yard at a volunteer fair in Edinburgh, a life-defining moment that would mark the start of a brand new career.

Ronnie says, “I had been involved in various voluntary roles in the past, something I had always found rewarding and valuable. So while trying to find some new opportunities, I went along to the volunteer fair where The Yard had a stall. In many ways, I like to think The Yard found me!”

Shortly after, Ronnie started volunteering two days a week and, in 2010, was offered a part-time Playworker position. He now works full-time at The Yard, with children and young people of all ages.

“I’ve always felt that doing service for others is important, and that mind-set needs to be in you to work here - the ability and drive to put the young people first. In fact, that’s where the magic happens.

“Of course, we’re not just building a bond with the children, but also the parents, who gain so much from being here. The families make friends and connections with others, and gain a sense of acceptance, where they had perhaps felt isolated as a family before. By contributing to the wider family dynamic, our impact can be huge and lifelong.”

So what skills does Ronnie feel are needed to be part of The Yard team?

“We’re working with young people up to the age of 25, with a wide range of challenges, so we need to be incredibly flexible. Every child and family is different, and we are very much driven by their interests and what works for them.

“Of course, empathy is also an absolute must, and something that’s in me as a father. Many of our families can feel detached from society and sometimes the siblings feel isolated too – indeed, they can bring their own challenges. I’ve seen families arrive in the hall, literally holding their breath. You can see that worry, looking at their child as they hold onto them, you can almost feel the tension. But then they come in and everything changes - they start smiling, feel lighter, their body language changes and they all start to relax.”

Of course, gender and age diversity are also very important to The Yard, with each and every member of the team contributing something different.

“I feel that diversity is essential in this environment. As a team, we are a great mix of genders, ages and approaches, which translates into a lovely mix of play experiences for the children. No day is the same – a child or teenager may come in feeling a bit down and need a pick-me-up or someone to vent to. Some children will be drawn to a particular member of staff who they just connect with, some might have a particular interest in baking or music - we’re all unique, just like the children! It’s an absolute honour and privilege to work here, and it inspires and moves me on a daily basis.”

Happy birthday to Ronnie from all of us at The Yard!