Down a gentle slope from Robin House near Loch Lomond is a lovely rainbow bridge leading to more of the six-acres of tended gardens.

But when Peter Kane painted it, he had the paints numbered because he’s colour blind.

And when he was sent to pick up the paint, fellow volunteer James Ramage was with him - who is registered blind.

Recounting the story, they are still laughing about it years later - it’s remained a standing joke.

Both started contributing their time to the charity within months of each other around a decade ago.

“Someone gave me a paint brush when I started here and I’ve been standing with a paint brush ever since. It’s entirely different from what I thought,” admits Peter, 70, from Balloch.

“People who try it, stay. We come up and don’t need anyone to say what we need to do. You’re not coming up looking for a job.”

When Peter started, there was only a greenhouse on the grounds but that has expanded overwhelmingly to include everything from a wooden castle to a vegetable garden for the kitchen.

“I love it up here,” says James, 56, a former window cleaner from Tullichewan in Alexandria. “You come up here for the kids and once you see them, you want to do the work.

“Every day is different.”

Margaret Harkins had retired and was used to fundraising for CHAS so already had some insight into what was going on at Robin House.

“I love coming here every week,” says the 66-year-old from Alexandria.

“When we fundraised, it was with customers and the generosity was overwhelming. I worked in a bank - I wanted something with no stress, and there’s no stress up here. It’s such a nice atmosphere to be in.

“Everyone is so happy.”

Jamie Swan has Asperger’s, and volunteering with general maintenance and as a driver has increased his confidence. He’s been there nearly seven years now.

“It’s that nice a place to volunteer,” says the 31-year-old from Dumbarton, “and it’s stress free and everyone is really nice.

“They’re really good working around my Asperger's.”

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CHAS, formed in 1992, built Scotland’s first children’s hospice Rachel House in Kinross, followed by Robin House, which opened in 2005. Donations raise much of the more than £9million that it costs to deliver their vital services.

There are physiotherapy workers, social workers, play specialists, and they’ve even started trying the very new bounce therapy involving a trampoline.

Children’s rooms are on the main level of Robin House with parents staying downstairs, giving them a bit of a breathing space during weekend respite care from often 24/7 support they provide at home.

Nicola Porciani, volunteer development manager at Robin House, says the feedback from families about Jamie is that he is such a calm person. And his contribution makes such a difference to staff, particularly on the driving side.

Jamie recounts getting to know one family while picking them up and taking them home from the hospice. When their child passed away, their family approached him to thank him.

“I didn’t really think I was doing anything, but they were so thankful,” he says. “You are making a difference.”

James agrees the families are so humble and grateful for the support they get. Margaret said she gets thanks from staff and families - it’s universal.

Robin House offers end-of-life care, respite care for families and much more. Their hydro pool, art room, den, peaceful grounds and bright open spaces give families breathing space as well as specialist and vital care at some of the most difficult moments of any person’s life.

“It’s not just children cared for, it’s siblings - the whole family is part of the community,” says Margaret. “That’s the nice thing about it.”

Nicola says what they do for each family is different.

“It can be a bit of hand holding,” she says. “Some parents will not know what they need. Sometimes we have to say, ‘here’s what we can offer’ - even just a massage.

“Sometimes saying ‘you need to take a break, you need to get a night’s sleep’. It’s building up that trust that we can support them.

“We want to see the very best for our families. We know our children might have a really short time so let’s make it the best for the child and their families.

“When families are at their lowest ever, we can support them. Whatever that family is to their child, we will support them.”

Robin House is currently looking for housekeeping volunteers, gardeners for the peaceful grounds and even a choir lead to offer a Thursday sing.

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But Nicola says anyone with a skill should get in touch - they’ll make use of the depth of support and contribution from the community.

There can be accredited training for those helping CHAS, and they help young people gain confidence, those who have been on long-term sick get back into work, and other opportunities.

“A big part of my job is supporting our volunteers,” she adds. “We offer a lot.”

“If you’re willing to volunteer, just come up and try it,” says Peter. “It’s one of the happiest places I have ever been. We are here to make life better.”

To support CHAS at Robin House, email nicolaporciani@ or visit for details on other ways to contribute.