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Exploring heritage, unlocking skills and changing lives

Venture Trust is piloting a new programme helping young people to take a rewarding break from caring responsibilities, to unleash their talents, and explore a largely unknown part of Scotland’s rich heritage.

Venture Trust is constantly developing and evolving programmes to help individuals build the confidence, the aspiration and the crucial lifeskills they need to move forward positively in their lives. We have joined forces with The Heritage Lottery Fund, young carers’ groups in Glasgow and National Museums Scotland to enable 12 young people with caring responsibilities to explore changing land use triggered by Scotland’s silent revolution, the Lowland Clearances.

Young people with caring responsibilities represent some of Scotland’s most resilient, most dedicated and most talented citizens. There are well over 100,000 amazing young Scots looking after family and friends, making a huge and largely unrecognised contribution to the country’s well-being, often at the expense of their own experience of growing up. This pilot project led by Venture Trust supports The Scottish Government’s aspiration to help such young people move forward positively in their lives, and is working with partner agencies committed to helping young people manage their caring responsibilities appropriately.

The programme in a nutshell

Working with the fantastic West Glasgow and South West Glasgow Carers’ Centres and the young people themselves, we created a programme which offered participants the chance to experience Scotland’s heritage 'up close and personal', through a range of experiential learning sessions culminating in a once-in-a-lifetime heritage journey through remote rural landscapes in Southern Scotland. This provided the opportunity to live, breathe and absorb the environments first-hand over several days, investigating and documenting the heritage of land use in the areas, learning new personal and technical skills, whilst enjoying a range of outdoor activities and personal development sessions throughout.

The heritage element of the programme focused upon changing land use triggered by the lowland clearances (Scotland's 'silent revolution') in the 1700s and onwards to the present day. Although the displacement of the rural population in the Highlands is a well-documented and painful episode in Scotland's history, the story of the Lowland Clearances had largely been lost until recently, but it marked a seminal moment in Scotland's physical and social development. The agricultural and industrial revolutions reshaped the landscape into the Scottish countryside as it is known today, and, while two generations of peasant farmers struggled with the upheaval of their traditional way of life, the Lowland Clearances set in motion a trend of depopulation and social fragmentation that arguably continues to affect the Southwest of Scotland several centuries later.

Initial exploration

The group began their research in to the Lowland Clearances with a visit to the National Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride.

The participants began to unlock some of the mysteries of the Clearances, quizzing the museum staff and getting in amongst the exhibits:

“I had never heard of the Lowland Clearances before but now I have an idea what happened and why it was so bad.”
“The staff were very knowledgeable and told us all about the Clearances.”
“I found out that some people moved to America and Canada.”

Armed with this knowledge, the group finalised their preparations for the journey itself –their first blog tells the story.

The Journey

During their heritage journey the Venture Trust group set out to experience some of the hardships that “cotters” cleared off the land would have encountered as they made their way towards the cities and New Towns in the 1700s. The group travelled across Southern Scotland, visiting historical sites and gathering information for their project on Scotland’s Lowland Clearances. Along the way they had to overcome torrential rain, gale force winds, a mountain rescue and leaky plates! You can read their account posted on the NMS blog based on the group’s daily journal.

The journey had a big impact on everyone who took part. One young person recently posted this message on Facebook:

“i just want to say a massive thankyou to u and the rest of the vt team i am honestly a different person from what i was before the trip and ive gained so much confidence aswell and wouldn't have been able to achieve it all or do all the things i did if it wasn't for youse xx”

Celebrating achievements and moving forward

Having completed the heritage journey, the young people have been reflecting on their experiences and progressing a number of ideas. They put together Display Boards charting their experiences and showcasing their findings, which will be available to the general public at the National Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride between May 19th and June 16th 2014. The Boards got their first airing at a Presentation Evening celebrating the young people’s achievements, where they received certificates and showed friends and family what they had created.

Families at the celebration evening

One participant prepared the following speech:

“Before going away on the Venture Trust heritage programme my life and daily routine consisted of me looking after my mum as I am her carer. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go away because of my home situation but the staff reassured me that it would be good for me to get away for a bit and get a wee break, it was really tough for me to leave my mother at home herself and it probarly sounds bad but once I was away I never really thaught of home and never asked to phone my mum either. Being away for that period have really helped me progress as a person and made me realise that I have a life too, I'm special and sometimes it's good to have a wee break from home, the staff were extremely supportive to all of us and were always there to help us carry out different tasks, answer our questions and to help whenever they could! I really enjoyed this heritage trip and would do it 10 times over again if I had the chance, I would highly recommend it to anyone aswell, I came out my comfort zone and achieved so many things not even I could've thaught I could, I would like to say a massive thankyou to each and everyone of the Venture Trust team and staff and to the Heritage Lottery team for making this trip possible.”

Like all Venture Trust programmes, each young person left the expedition with an Action Plan to take their newfound skills and apply them in day-to-day life. The programme has clearly had a profound effect, building significantly on the support that the individuals already receive within the young carer groups. Most impressively, 5 of the young people have already progressed into education and training opportunities. Importantly, they have made these decisions whilst also balancing the care responsibilities in a way that makes sense for their friends and families. Other participants have continued at school and college, armed with additional skills and another great addition to their CVs! All have built their confidence, their motivation and a range of skills vital in so many aspects of life, learning and work. Well done everyone!

Venture Trust remains a pioneer of wilderness-based personal and social development programmes, and this pilot marks another milestone in our quest to offer a range of support to young people and adults in their own journeys of change.


Thanks

This project would not have been possible without the help of several individuals and organisations. Venture Trust would like to offer up a MASSIVE thank you to the Heritage Lottery Fund (Scotland), West Glasgow Carers’ Centre, South West Glasgow carers’ Centre, National Museums Scotland (particularly staff at the National Museum of Rural Life) and most importantly ALL of the young people who made this project such as success.

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