Thursday 21st June saw Venture Trust’s first ever Graduation Event, held at Kirknewton House Stables in Edinburgh. What a day to remember...
The event - that first of what we hope will be many such graduations - was an opportunity to celebrate and recognise the achievements of young people who have successfully completed a Venture Trust programme. Almost 60 participants graduated; also taking part in some of the activities used on expedition and community days, and sharing their experience and expertise with guests and supporters who had come along to celebrate with them.
The main event of the evening centred around the presentation of graduation certificates, and short speeches from two of our graduates – Brian and Michelle. These speeches were heartfelt, revealing, and emotional, illustrating the fondness with which participants remember their time with Venture Trust, the important role they felt it to play in their lives, and the long-term effects on their achievements.
"Overall it [the IYF programme] was a fantastic experience, one I’ll never forget, and since doing it I’m a brand new person. I've learned that I am a strong person and I am able to overcome any kind of obstacles that might come my way. Since then I am much more positive not only with myself but with my outlook as well" – Michelle, IYF graduate
The event was also an opportunity to showcase Venture Trust’s programmes to potential supporters; a chance for them to see how and why our programmes are so effective. The feedback from those who attended was extremely positive, and we are confident that the event acted as a powerful showcase for our programmes, enhancing our reputation and promising positive effects with regards to referrals and funding.
“It was a great evening, I particularly enjoyed taking part in some of the excercises, a bit tricky, fun and also helped to provide an insight into what goes on during the IYF course. The two young people who spoke about their experience were inspiring and I know that anyone of the young people in the room would have a very similar story to tell. It was interesting to hear from young people whose lives look very different to when they first got involved with VT and the skills VT helped them to gain are still being utilised in their next stage of their life” – Supporter feedback
We aim to continue to run these graduation events at regular intervals over the coming years – hopefully bigger and better each time! Many, many thanks to all staff who worked so hard to deliver the event, to all the young people who made it such a success, and to our fantastic supporters:
- Mr and Mrs Welwood at Kirknewton House Stables
- George Neilson and Billy Mcguire for their wonderful photography
- The local businesses who kindly supported our raffle: Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Scottish Seabird Centre, Loopy Lorna’s Tea House, the Scotch Whisky Experience, Go Ape!, Craggan Outdoors, Zumba Shack Edinburgh and Tone Zone.
At the end of expeditions, we ask participants to reflect on their experiences. Here's a selection from our recent 'Transitions' expedition up at Applecross:
"Am just writing to let u know a wee bit about Venture Trust course, it Is a 10 day course to try and change your life and it soot’s everyones needs, it is a 1 and a million opportunity, if u get the chance to go, u should, the staff is fantastic min, they are always there to help and support u, u get to go campin for 4 days, basically livin in the wild lol, but it is a great laff tho, then u also get to do heaps of activities min, a was terrified of being in the water and a thought if a went in a would drown but they give u all the safety kit a was wary afore a went in but a was all right after a while cus a had the help and support from all the young people in the group and also the staff and a feel more confident now and a was also scared of heights but a kinda came over ma fear cus we were walkin over big cliffs and mountains it was amazing min, I have gained more self esteem and more confidence while bein on venture trust. I have made heaps of new pals and everything, if it wisnae for be comin to venture trust I would of bein in the jail so am glad a came to venture trust, it wis amazing but don’t think its a holiday cause its not, its a course to make a change to your life. if u have the opportunity to go and u wont to change your life honestly come to venture trust min"
"When i got told i was going on the Corse i wasn’t really that excited but when i got here all that changed because it has given me so much more and something worth trying for and more purpose and belonging if u get the chance i would take it as its a once in a lifetime opportunity"
"Venture trust has been a once in a life time experience for me, you get to meet alot of new people from alot of different places with so many different backgrounds and learn so much without even realising because even though your only for 10 days once you’ve got to know everyone you can have such a laugh along the journey and have such an awesome week.
As soon as you get here, you do have to hand in your phone and if you’re like me totally glued to your phone can’t go nowhere without it and feel completely naked because it’s not in your hand, it hasn’t even bothered me because ive had such a good time been here making friends with new faces and enjoying everyone’s company including the staff there all ace! It feels so good to be away from what I call home been and been away from all the crap that surrounds me when I’m there I don’t even want to go back because I know as soon I step foot back into Framingham foyer in Suffolk everything that I had left behind is going to be straight back in my face but I suppose at the end of the day been here and knowing that what’s there hasn’t even bothered me the slightest means you can do the same at home, so if you can change your life here you can do it there aswell....."
"My journey about when i came to the venture trust is that its a bit nerve racking at first but as you get into it is a really good experience and you can learn a lot about yourself and you can set yourself new goals and challenges and the first couple of days you get to know people you feel less nervous and you feel a lot more comfortable around the people you are with and you also learn new skills you also have a life time of experience so if you want to come on the venture trust course i’d definitely take this opportunity because you don’t have this opportunity this often so i would take it because its worth it in the long run and when you go back home you will miss the people you have been around for the past ten days but i would definitely take this opportunity if you get the chance."
"Yes, you do abseiling and other activities but this is something more than a holiday. This is something that will change your life for the better. You will improve on yourself, your skills and other qualities. This is not easy but it is a life changing experience if you work with the staff. You don’t get your phone, there is no TV or internet. This may be hard but it is well worth the ten days."
Mairi Brackenridge, Chair of Venture Trust's Board of Directors, gives us her views on the challenges and opportunities for the year ahead, her motivations for getting involved, and a flavour of her experiences in Scotland's wilderness....
Mairi did ask us to make it clear that the photo to the right is her bravely tackling the Mighty Deerstalker for Venture Trust (in which she resoundingly beat the rest of the VT team!), and that she doesn't usually dress in tweed accessorised with army camouflage!
Why did you join the board at Venture Trust? What motivated you to get involved?
I have worked in social work and related fields for over 35 years. I have always been particularly interested in working with young people whose lives are challenging and when I was offered early retirement I saw it as an opportunity to continue that interest and give something back. I had also had experience of what the wilderness could offer as a way of helping people consider other options in their lives. VT seemed to fit with what I was looking for.
What’s been the biggest surprise about VT so far? Is the organisation what you expected?
I'm not sure surprised is the way to describe it, but I am impressed by the huge commitment that staff offer to their work, and continue to do that even during periods of change such as we have been through over the past year. It is very clear that the success of the organisation lies in the talented and hugely committed individuals that make up the staff.
What, in your opinion, are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing VT over the coming year?
The biggest challenge is undoubtedly the uncertain economic situation which means that budgets are under pressure. However I do believe that many people understand that we need to find different ways of engaging with disadvantaged and vulnerable people and VT offers a unique and successful way of doing that. I think the success of VT is recognised but we need to keep the message alive so that we can raise the money needed to work with people in the wildnerness. We have such good staff and their commitment impresses people and we need to make sure we continue to develop staff to keep the organisation healthy.
And on a lighter note...
What’s your favourite book, and why?
That's a challenge - I love reading and read a lot. Most recently I have read Claire Tomalin's biography of Dickens and some Swedish detective novels. I like to go back to old favourites such as Jane Austen, so choosing one is difficult. If I had to choose one I think perhaps I would take the collected works of Robert Burns - it contains everything: humour, love, commentary on society, stories, poems...... and it reminds me of my dad who introduced me to Burns when I was a little girl.
Where’s your favourite wild place in Scotland?
More difficult choices! However it would have to be Islay - we go there 2 or three times a year and in particular Saligo Bay - hearing the waves and watching the sea birds is inspirational - even in the rain.
What’s your most bizarre experience so far in life?
It relates to Islay - my husband and I got married there 5 years ago - we kept it quiet and didn't tell anyone, my sister was my witness but didn't know until the day of the wedding what was happening - our reception was sitting on the rocks at Saligo Bay in the pouring rain eating a piece of cake and having a whisky to celebrate - some people would think we were mad!!
When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to work with people but not be a teacher. I thought about being a lawyer but decided against it so I became a social worker - I think it was meant to be.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I overuse the word actually - I try hard not to do so - but actually it's difficult!
You’re about to be marooned on a desert island... Which three items would you take with you?
A book, some paint and paper - so that I could learn to draw - and a survival blanket.
Which famous person (dead or alive) would you most like to be stuck there with?
...and you can't say fairer than that!
Michelle, a participant on our Inspiring Young Futures programme, reflects on her time with - and after - Venture Trust:
"...The trip had a thing called support groups where we would sit down and discuss goals to set for ourselves and our group.
This happened maybe every day or every second day and at first I was like 'I'm not doing this, it will be pointless', the usual! So at first my goals were a little basic like 'get to know the other participants, get involved more with group activities' etc.
But as the days went on Iain and Phil challenged me to make more personal goals, like ones that would make a difference to me. They noticed I was running late sometimes because I always had to put my make up on and both of them spoke to me about this on our Tipi expedition since it was pouring down and I had mascara and eyeliner all down my face! I ended up realising I was using make up as a mask because I was insecure about my looks and never really felt myself unless I had make up on.
So I thought about it that whole day and once we'd settled into the tipi at night I announced that I was taking my make up off and I'm challenging myself to keep it off the whole trip. I got a big applause from everyone which I wasn't expecting but it made me want to do it even more. The first few days were hard as I was totally refusing to look at anyone or get my photos taken or anything but people were complimenting me more saying I had a good complexion, I looked more fresh faced and looked better without all the stuff! This made me feel great. I ended up not caring by like day 4/5 and was up for getting photos taken, I was smiling more and just felt a lot better. I lasted the whole trip and everyone was so proud of me which just felt so good hearing that from people.
All of my goals and skills were recorded on my feedback sheets and I do read them quite a lot when I'm at home.
If I'm feeling really down or I'm getting really negative with myself, which I do a lot, I bring out all of my sheets and give them a read and remind myself of a person I know I can be and it never fails to cheer me up.
It helps me reflect on how I overcame obstacles and challenges on the trip and how this can come into effect in life back home. It always boosts my confidence and makes me feel like I can achieve my goals if I just push myself and it always ends up better than if I stayed wallowing in self pity about things. I'm glad I have those sheets, I'll be keeping them forever!
My life would not be the same if I hadn't got involved with VT.
I was really upset about coming home [from expedition] to be honest. I was on the train back from Inverness with everyone and we were having a laugh and talking about the trip but everyone settled down after a bit and I pulled out my stuff that I was given like my feedback sheets, my diary and things and gave them a little read. I ended up crying a little, but it wasn't sadness it was more happiness and acceptance that I had managed to complete this challenge and I'd had a really great time and I was ready to start my new life.
When I got home my mum was so happy to see me and was so proud of me for doing it.
I seen my friends for the first time a few days later and they couldn't believe the change in me. They said I seemed so much happier, I was more confident and wanted to hear all about my time away. A few days later I had so many things to do like go for my college interview, apply for jobs and get more involved with things and I just seemed so eager to get on with it!"
We did it! On Saturday 17th March, a committed team of 25 fearless runners successfully tackled the Mighty Deerstalker event in Peebles, to raise money for Venture Trust.
Collectively raising over £2,000 to support Scots from difficult and disadvantaged backgrounds, Our intrepid runners tackled obstacles including cargo nets, balance beams and river crossings – not to mention wading through copious amounts of mud.
Our fabulous supporters travelled from across the country to be there (special mention to the four runners from RGU:RAG who travelled down from Aberdeen the morning of the event), and everyone dressed to the nines in their finest tweed, tartan, flat-caps and waistcoats, all topped off with Venture Trust-themed face paint. As the 5k runners returned tired and dirty from their epic adventure, the 10k runners battled on into the falling darkness, scrambling up scree slopes lit only by their head torches. No effort was spared, and the months of training, fundraising and preparation paid off as every one of the team successfully crossed the finish line.
It was absolutely fantastic to see so many runners getting involved in this brilliant event to support Venture Trust. The money our runners raised equates to almost 200 hours of one-to-one support to help young people in Scotland work towards more positive futures. As one of Venture Trust’s first fundraising events it’s been great to see such an enthusiastic turn-out, and a massive thank you to all our runners, bucket-shakers and supporters for helping make it such a successful day. Many thanks also to Walkers Shortbread, Hobbycraft Edinburgh and Tunnock's for their fab support.
We even made it onto Radio 2's drivetime show on Friday evening! You can listen to the clip here.
We’re looking forward to getting involved in more extreme challenges in 2012 – helping give a life-changing opportunity to young people who’ve been in care, have struggled with homelessness, or are struggling to make the transition to adulthood.
See you there?