Change and Transition: The Hero’s Journey!
Deciding that you want to make a step change in your life and making it happen is a period of transition that is challenging and exciting in equal measure. Much like a journey, if you can be guided and supported along the route you have chosen you will have a better chance of reaching your destination. If you journey for a while with other people in a similar situation it is a much richer experience. An experience punctuated by the scenery, the stops you make, and the views and insights that you and your fellow travellers will share along the way. Imagine a journey where you can see yourself differently and be seen differently by others...
Venture Trust’s ‘ Transitions to Independent Living’ programme is such a journey. The programme, which has been running for nearly 5 years, is designed to help young people resident in supported accommodation to develop their confidence and employability, increasing their access to local services and establish sustainable lifestyles. The programme has been successful and is popular with the participants, referral networks and partners. It is regularly proven to better equip participants with the skills and attributes needed to access employment, education, training, or volunteering as well as offering a catalytic shift in attitude and perspective that helps participants plan their move into independent accommodation.
Venture Trust developed the ‘Transitions’ programme to address the unique needs and circumstances facing young people in supported housing situations. Using our established and effective personal development curriculum, based on Choice Theory and Reality Therapy, the programme gives each participant the opportunity to join a 10-day wilderness expedition, where they are given time, space and intensive support in a wilderness setting, where boundary-stretching challenges serve as a vehicle for learning, reflection and discussion as a group and on a 1-to-1 basis
The ‘Transitions’ programme has several unique features :
- It works very closely with a network of supported accommodation providers, taking referrals from all over the UK. A programme with a truly national reach
- A bursary scheme is now a key part of the programme which allows a wider network of partners , increased places and increased accessibility of the programme to participants by offering subsidised places
- It is a journey both literally and metaphorically. Most participants will take a train to Inverness or another agreed location in the Scottish Highlands, where they are met by Venture Trust staff. Previous participants have travelled from Foyers all over the UK, including as far south as Eastbourne, Plymouth and Truro. The independent journey to northern Scotland is a core part of the experience, challenging participants to be self-determined and self-reliant from the outset.
The Bursary scheme has proved popular in concept and in execution. It is supported by the Joseph Rank Trust and is a good example of partnership working that allows Venture Trust to deliver a targeted and specific programme to the greatest number of participants where the need is greatest. This pioneering approach has elicited much interest as a model for both programme funding and delivery. The Joseph Rank Trust bursary scheme and the places that it funds are referred from organisations grounded in the Christian ethos and practice, but who support young people of all faiths and none. This reflects the common values that we share and our commitment to helping the less fortunate members of society.
Since the ‘Transitions’ programme started in 2009 over 125 young people from all over the UK have participated, with referrals from over 40 different referral routes and organisations. Our most recent ‘Transitions’ programme took place earlier this summer at the beginning of July (the start of the midge season in Scotland). A glimpse into the participant journey demonstrates the impact that the ‘Transition’ programme has.
Shona (not her real name), a referral from the Foyer network was the beneficiary of a Joseph Rank Trust bursary. She travelled from London to Inverness to start her wilderness expedition earlier this spring. Her progress towards addressing her personal development needs was commented upon by a staff member
‘Although she showed confidence to talk in front of the group from the beginning of the course she demonstrated an increase in her confidence to assert herself. To begin with she often agreed with others opinions but as the course progressed she began to be able to express alternative opinions. She was able to openly and maturely disagree and talk up in a conversation about ‘exclusive relationships’.
Kevin (not his real name) took part in a wilderness expedition earlier this summer and impressed many of the staff team with his attitude and approach whilst on the expedition and after returning home. His outreach worker commented on the positive turn that he has taken:
‘Kevin returned from the course with a clear idea of what his action plan would be and stated the support he got from VT field team staff was the best he's ever experienced . He wants to thank staff for believing in him and giving him back his self respect and self belief as well as the ability to go forwards in life helping others in similar situations to himself. He is now working as a peer support drug and alcohol worker for the NHS ...’
The programme continues to be popular having real relevance and impact for those participants who undertake this challenging journey. A journey which helps them to shape, change and influence their future and that enables them to reach their destination.
Venture Trust is delighted to announce today a new partnership with Craigie's Farm Deli and Cafe!
Craigies Farm Deli and Cafe, situated in South Queensferry, offers pick your own fruit, an impressive selection of groceries, cheeses, and butchery, a fabulous cafe, and a chance to have wander around the farm and a look at their animals... including their chickens which are partial to a bit of radio (seriously!). Venture Trust is delighted to have been picked as Craigie's Farm Charity of the Year 2014 and is excited about the year to come working with this dedicated, local family business.
It was a tough decision for John and Kirsteen, owners of Craigie's, but they were particularly impressed with how Venture Trust enables young adults experiencing multiple disadvantages get their lives back on track.
John Sinclair, owner of Craigie's said:
“We hope that we can not only demonstrate our personal support for Venture Trust but contribute through fundraising and other community based work. We hope that our community growing initiative and peaceful, outdoor space will provide an opportunity and environment to help the Venture Trust participants to recognise and meet their needs for change.
“I think it’s very important that a local business such as ours contributes something back into the local community as a thank you for the loyal custom of so many people from the area.
"We are excited to work with the Venture Trust team and hope to have a good deal of positive news to report over coming months."
Paddy Cassidy, Fundraising Manager at Venture Trust, said:
"I am delighted that Craigie’s has chosen Venture Trust as their Charity of the Year 2014. We look forward to working with John and Kirsteen and the rest of their team over the year ahead in what we are sure will be a promising and fruitful partnership. This presents many opportunities which will be of mutual benefit to Venture Trust’s existing and future supporters, Craigie’s existing and future new customers, and the young people who we will support and work with together. I am impressed with John and Kirsteen’s personal qualities and their commitment to engaging with young people who are experiencing multiple disadvantages. Their belief in putting something back in order to help others and their willingness to engage with our participants forms the basis for a successful partnership.
"The details of the partnership programme will be worked up towards the end of the summer. This will include Venture Trust and Craigie’s having a visible and complementary brand presence at the entrance to the farm shop and cafe, with visitors and customers being invited to make a modest donation of £1 when they make their purchases. The farm is an ideal venue and location for the young people with whom we work to engage in the outdoors and we hope to host personal development focussed activities at Craigie’s throughout the year. There will be opportunities for the staff at Craigie’s to take part in fundraising events and for our young participants to improve their employability skills through work experience placements and potential employment during peak times throughout the seasons.
"Venture Trust and Craigie’s are a natural and complementary fit and we look forward to creating and sharing the stories and successes that will emerge. There will be something of interest to communicate to all of Craigie’s visitors, customers, and staff and Venture Trust’s participants and valued supporters. Bringing staff, participants, customers, and supporters together in one location will be a unique feature of the relationship."
Please do head over to Craigie's Farm's website where you can read more about what they offer. You can also follow Craigie's Farm on Twitter and Facebook! We'll be keeping you posted over the coming year about this great new partnership, so be sure to keep checking back!
Following a successful pilot and subsequent evaluation in 2013, Venture Trust has continued to develop our On the Hoof programme and here’s an update on the year’s developments so far...
Venture Trust’s On the Hoof programme was developed to provide personal development support targeted to the needs of young people with learning disabilities. The programme builds upon Venture Trust’s 30 years of experience of working with many young people with learning disabilities across all of our programmes, introducing the use of ponies and, in doing so, creating additional opportunities for participants to learn and develop through taking responsibility for and building relationships with the ponies.
The programme has evolved in line with the initial evaluation over the year. The initial strategy was to use ponies as pack animals and this was implemented, with the help and expertise of Highlands Unbridled, in the first two pilot wilderness journeys. This allowed the group of young people participating in the programme to cover a greater distance and hence complete a more meaningful journey, whilst the challenge of caring for and travelling with the ponies added further depth to each young person’s development experience. In other words, having additional responsibility for the wellbeing of the ponies (with support and appropriate professional supervision) offered a greater opportunity to catalyse change in a participant’s thinking, attitudes, and behaviour.
The On the Hoof evaluation made a number of suggestion of which Venture Trust took on board and On the Hoof as we see it today began to evolve. Firstly, it was suggested that future courses should be run closer to the central belt (whilst still maintaining a commitment to using wilderness environments and a sense of distance away from home environments). This would minimise travelling and maximise the useable personal development time on the journey. It was agreed that more usable time would increase the therapeutic value of the ponies by giving time for relationship building between participants and ponies. We now run our On the Hoof programme in the Borders of Scotland in line with the evaluation’s suggestion.
Another consideration highlighted in the On the Hoof evaluation was that the programme should include a greater diversity of activities with the horses without losing the focus upon relationship building skills, working with others, effective communication, and organisational skills. Additionally, participants fed back that they thought the journey should be 5 days long, rather than the piloted 4 days, and Venture Trust staff agreed that the 4-day length limited the depth of personal development that could take place and 5 days would allow more bonding time with fellow participants, staff, and the ponies. Finally, participants expressed a preference for a centre-based expedition with only one or two nights camping. A centre-based expedition makes the trip more manageable for less fit individuals and makes group work sessions more effective in light of the needs of the participants.
To this end, Venture Trust explored a partnership with Equibuddy, who offer group and 1:1 sessions for riders with additional support needs working together to help develop confidence, self-esteem, balance, and coordination. This partnership has proven to be a huge success, with participants taking in part in riding, vaulting, grooming, leading, and tacking up lessons whilst simultaneously experiencing a centre-based Venture Trust wilderness-based personal development journey. Participants have the opportunity to really build a relationship with the ponies, are involved in a wide variety of activities including caring for the pony, riding, and vaulting, and the course is suitable for a wider variety of fitness levels ensuring all participants can benefit from the wilderness journey experience.
On the Hoof as we see it today is a tried, tested, and evaluated programme that has come a long way since its pilot. It continues to benefit a number of young people with learning disabilities and enables them to make and sustain positive changes in their lives. None of this would have been possible without the invaluable support of our funding partners, Children in Need, The Crerar Hotels Trust, and The Wessex Youth Trust. Venture Trust is looking forward to continuing the successes of the On the Hoof programme and witnessing even more of our participants’ successes along the way!
Copyright Stefan Durkacz
Stefan has completed his 457km solo backpacking challenge around the River Tay watershed in aid of Venture Trust... a huge congratulations!
On 18th May, Stefan set out on his mammoth five-week lap of the River Tay watershed in aid of Venture Trust and Scottish Wild Land Group. The River Tay is the largest river catchment in Scotland cutting across both the Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland. Stefan began from Monifieth Sands and finished five weeks later at Tentsmuir Point in north-east Fife. View Stefan's full route here.
Despite living in London since 2001, Stefan has managed to remain an outdoor enthusiast and was excited to take on 457km solo challenge:
"I've had a lifelong infatuation with the outdoors, especially the hills and mountains of Scotland and have long wanted to take on the challenge of an extended backpacking expedition. I've been guilty of being a Munro bagger, grabbing summits on day trips and fleeting, often unsatisfying, visits, measuring progress by ticks on a list. Backpacking, however, offers a much deeper satisfaction - something I've always known deep down... Journeying over the land under my own steam, being self-sufficient, sleeping out under the sky, linking these places up to create a whole, is a thrilling prospect."
Copyright Stefan Durkacz
On why he chose to raise money for Venture Trust, Stefan explains on his blog:
"I believe that wild land is essential, not just something that's nice to have. I was lucky enough to have unfettered and often unsupervised access to the outdoors when I was growing up. I took it for granted, and learned important lessons without realising."
Stefan admitted that the hardest part of the trip was being away from his family. On top of that he battled with midges, rain, and was almost hit by lightening:
"I heard the first thunderclap just the other side of An Sgarsoch. I froze: too late to run, nowhere to hide anyway. A flash and another bang, closer now. I threw away my trekking poles and dropped to a crouch. Minutes passed. I started to look up. Everything went white and a gunshot bang sounded, everywhere at once, almost inside my head too. I sprawled, and from depths of memory the Hail Mary came to mind. I recited what I could remember as a mantra to control my fear and stop myself from running."
But despite these challenges, Stefan continued on:
"The final two days of walking were wonderful. I saw golden eagles on Leathad an Taobhain and Carn na Caim, descended a magical tree-lined ravine following a burn from moor to valley floor, marvelled at the awesome Gaick Pass, and fell asleep to the sound of peewits and oystercatchers. The weather grew sunny and warm. The longer I spent alone outdoors the more I noticed. The rhythm of the journey was sinking into me as I sank into the landscape."
I think everyone at Venture Trust can really relate to Stefan's journey, filled with ups and downs, peaks and troughs, high points and low points but overall, an overwhelming sense of achievement. The wilderness is an environment naturally conducive to reflection, challenge, and change, which Venture Trust's participants experience whilst on their own personal development expedition and Stefan's journey along the Tay Watershed really does strike a chord:
"The end had to come eventually... There was the quiet satisfaction of seeing the venture through good and bad to the end. There was also the sense that if the experience had changed me in [many ways], these changes would play out slowly and subtly, at unpredictable times and unexpected ways."
A big thank you to Stefan from everyone at Venture Trust! Please do head over to Stefan's blog for a stage by stage description of his incredible challenge, stunning photos, kit lists, and more. Stefan has also been featured on www.ukhillwalking.com on the 4th July and 28th July; two really great articles that give a fantastic flavour of his journey.
If you're feeling inspired and would like to take on a challenge of your own to raise money for Venture Trust, please visit out Events Page for more information.
"The wilderness is an inherently challenging thing: it has a way of kicking the crutches and distractions away and showing us what we're really made of, which is often more than we think."
Copyright Stefan Durkacz
Next Steps: helping women make positive life changes and escape cycles of offending
Venture Trust is delighted to announce today that it has been awarded £840,320 from the Big Lottery Fund to expand its highly successful “Next Steps” programme, helping 360 of Scotland’s most vulnerable women to transform their lives.
Over the next 3 years, this national project will enable Venture Trust to work alongside established criminal justice partners across Scotland to address the needs of women who are currently caught up in a cycle of offending. It will provide a three staged approach tailored to the needs of each individual, including initial engagement and assessment, a wilderness-based personal development expedition, and community based aftercare support. In close partnership with fellow charity ‘Move On’, it will additionally train 60 women to become ‘peer mentors’ helping others in similar circumstances.
Linking directly with the Angiolini Report’s recommendations, Venture Trust’s work has evolved to improve support for women to escape offending. Building on Venture Trust’s established expertise, women will take part in a life-changing wilderness expedition. This is a key catalytic component for making and sustaining a change in their lives, and learning the life-skills necessary to sustain them. Individually tailored 1-to-1 outreach support provides support, advice and encouragement – a key relationship on which women can depend.
“Venture Trust’s Next Steps programme has been developed and refined over several years to address a number of the key issues highlighted in Dame Angiolini’s report. Thus far, we have worked closely with a small number of partners in Local Authorities. Thanks to this award from the Big Lottery, we can now further develop and deliver this service, with partners, on a truly national basis, improving the outcomes for women offenders and addressing Dame Angiolini’s observation that: ‘services which target the offending and rehabilitative features and characteristics of women offenders are not consistently provided throughout Scotland’”: Mark Bibbey: Venture Trust, Chief Executive.
One group of women each year will also use photography to document their experiences and journey through the programme. This previously piloted photography element enables participants to focus subjectively on what is important to them, deepening their personal development experience.
Venture Trust, in partnership with the Big Lottery Fund and Move On, will deliver bespoke intensive personal and social development services, which aim to reduce risk of re-offending and substance misuse and to support women to access other services that will further improve their lives.
“Next Steps has been innovative in both its approach to partnership working and in delivering a service that has outstanding outcomes for female offenders. We are delighted to receive this funding from the Big Lottery to extend this provision throughout the country for a very vulnerable group within our society.” Joe Connelly: Venture Trust, Head of Programmes.
Check out The Big Lottery Fund Scotland's blog, The Big Blog Scotland, for a Next Steps case study!