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Walking in a winter wonderland

Transitions to Independent Living

Wilderness journey: December 2015

The weather on our latest wilderness expedition added a festive theme to the journey and provided participants with some additional challenges…

The participants were taking part in Venture Trust’s Transitions to Independent Living programme, which is designed for those living in temporary supported accommodation, unstable tenancies or considered at risk of homelessness. The course helps participants to develop their confidence, relationships, employability and other skills necessary to secure and sustain permanent accommodation.

Six of the participants came from the slightly warmer climes of London and the surrounding area, and arrived with energy and excitement, despite delays on their 6-hour train journey. On arrival, they met the other participants at our Stirling base who came from Aberdeen and the group soon bonded during a meal - fish and chips in Pitlochry.

At Kinloch Rannoch Outdoor Centre the group created a great buzz and supportive culture. There was a positive energy as many of the participants stepped out of their comfort zones to challenge themselves, taking part in activities including climbing and abseiling.

The group set out from the centre ready for their expedition with the weather dry but cold. It wasn't long before the weather started to deteriorate but they were able to set up camp, cook dinner on their Trangia stoves and settle in for the night under canvas in the Scottish wilderness.

When they awoke and peered out of their tents the group faced a different type of challenge - heavy snow. Some of the participants described it as a "winter wonderland" or something from Disney's 'Frozen', however, on assessment, the Venture Trust team decided the challenges presented by the snow were too great so the decision was made to retreat back to the outdoor centre.

The change in plans provided an unexpected real-life scenario on which to demonstrate one of the cornerstones of Venture Trust's approach - Choice Theory/Reality Therapy. This framework helps participants to distinguish between what they can and cannot control, and to try to control only the controllable. Everyone dealt well with the change to the expedition and with the snow remaining constant over the next few days it certainly proved to be the right decision.

At the centre, the group continued to enjoy the experience and challenges of communal living. Being snowed in, alternative group activities were arranged and these included a Come Dine with Me competition which turned out to be very competitive - with some honest feedback and scoring. The group also got back outside to go on a forestry walk with lots of learning around the theme of 'Self, others and the environment' along with a few snow ball fights to keep everyone going.

When the weather had improved enough, the group were taken out for their biggest challenge - ‘mountain day’ on Schiehallion, one of Scotland’s best known Munros. The group walked part of the way up this classic Munro, with some making it higher than others, but with levels of commitment high for all. Each participant exceeded their own expectations, contending with tricky conditions and snow drifts up to their knees. Later in the day they also took part in role play exercises focussing on 'triggers' and how to control behaviour to gain positive consequences.

The last day of the course focused on participant's ‘Quality World’ (what they want out of life) and the strategies that they can use to get there. With support from their 1-1 field team member, they also completed an action plan outlining their goals and ambitions for the coming days, weeks and months.

On all of Venture Trust’s wilderness journeys, the weather may significantly influence how the course will evolve. This Transitions journey was no different, being full of changes due to the snow. However, the group adapted well to these and were able to press on and overcome the challenges presented to them. This will serve them well as they continue their personal journeys.

Merry Christmas and good luck in the future to all the participants from the field team - Sally, John, Polly, Gregor and Stu.

See yourself differently.

More information on our Transitions to Independent Living programme can be found here. This course would not be possible without the support of our funders. A big thanks to Dulverton Trust, Scottish Government Housing Voluntary Sector Grant Scheme, Simon Gibson Charitable Trust and the Mackintosh Foundation.

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