Military veteran, Mark Monaghan has already spent 22 years serving Queen and Country in the Royal Navy; a role that often means giving up your right to choose, sacrificing family time, friends, and independence in order to keep the UK safe from harm.
What an inspiring mindset to then choose to help others despite finding the transition to civilian life a difficult prospect. Mark has not rested on his laurels; he has just completed the Great Glencoe Challenge to raise funds and awareness for Venture Trust, and the work we do to support military veterans.
The Great Glencoe Challenge comprises 26.2 miles of Scotland’s iconic scenery, through Glencoe to the foot of Ben Nevis, and covers 5,000ft of ascent. And Mark did it all with a smile on his face!
That is not the only challenge Mark has faced recently. Since leaving the Royal Navy as a submariner in 2013, Mark has thrown himself into making a new life. However, the Armed Forces can provide a structure and purpose which just isn’t there in civilian life; being removed from that secure environment can feel very isolating and daunting.
Mark embarked on a new career, settling in Scotland with his wife and daughter but began finding the demands of civilian life overwhelming. In 2016 Mark was diagnosed with depression which eventually resulted in him leaving his job. He had a fractious dispute with neighbours that led to intervention with the authorities, and was subsequently referred to Venture Trust.
This proved to be a turning point for Mark. He was determined to do something positive and was keen to find volunteering work with people less fortunate than himself. He made contact with Veterans 1st Point and Step Together who helped him enormously, and he enrolled on a SAAFA Lifeworks employability course.
In November 2016 Mark embarked on our Positive Futures course funded by Forces in Mind Trust. This comprises a five day wilderness-based journey specifically designed for military veterans struggling with the transition to civilian life. The programme, which takes individuals out of their usual environment, and uses the outdoors as a catalyst for positive change, redeploying skills learnt within the military to be utilised in civilian life, also includes one-to-one support for up to 18 months.
Mark was enthusiastic about Positive Futures from the very beginning. On completion of the wilderness journey, he undertook further ‘Speak Up’ employability training with us, and was one of three veterans selected for a traineeship at Venture Trust. Mark has been working as a Data Entry and Funding Admin Assistant since March. Taking part in the Great Glencoe Challenge is Mark’s way of giving something back to those that helped him when he needed it most, and in some way helping others to be able to access the support from which he benefitted.
Mark comments, “I completed a Positive Futures course last year. I have had wonderful support and involvement from Venture Trust and the course itself re-invigorated my love of the outdoors. I am passionate about raising awareness of the great work done by Venture Trust and have been inspired to challenge myself physically and mentally by taking on the Great Glencoe Challenge. I am hoping to raise money to help others get the opportunity that I had.”
You can still donate to Mark's cause and help him achieve his goals. Click here for his Virgin Money Giving page.
To find out more about Positive Futures programme, please click here.
Life has not always been easy for Annabelle McPherson; in fact, it has been a very hard journey. But that hasn’t stopped her from turning things around, and doing great things for others. Her latest escapade? She is swimming 96 miles, the length of the River Tweed, to raise funds for Venture Trust.
Annabelle was struggling with alcohol addiction, which was having a very negative impact on her life, when she was referred to us through her social worker. In June 2015 Annabelle enrolled on our Next Steps course, a programme specifically designed for women in the criminal justice system, funded by The Big Lottery and a number of other trusts and foundations.
It provided enough space away from her existing environment, for Annabelle to begin on the road to recovery and positive change. She has gone on to train as a Venture Trust mentor, helping those in a similar situation to herself, and sought help with both AA and Addaction. Annabelle also attended our Speak Up employability training sessions, volunteered, and enrolled on a further Venture Trust programme, Living Wild, in 2017.
Annabelle comments, "If someone had told me they could change the way I think and feel in five days, I would never have believed it ... until I became involved with Venture Trust. They helped me to learn that although alcohol took a lot from me, it didn’t mean my life was over. It gave me hope that I could recover, and be a responsible and worthwhile person in society. For this I cannot thank Venture Trust enough.”
Throughout the summer, Annabelle is swimming at her local pool in Duns, Berwickshire, clocking up 96 miles (154 km), 6,144 lengths of the pool, or the entire length of the River Tweed. To date, she is almost half way through and aims to complete in August. Annabelle is raising funds for Venture Trust and donations can be made online: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AnnabelleMcPherson
Amelia Morgan, Chief Executive Officer at Venture Trust, comments, “We are really overwhelmed by Annabelle’s determination to support others, and to take on this remarkable challenge for Venture Trust. She has already come a long way, both in her personal life, and in the pool, and she is an inspiration to anyone going through difficult times. On behalf of Venture Trust, thank you Annabelle!”
To find out more about our Next Steps programme, please click here.
Venture Trust really is putting its money where its mouth is, and supporting personal development, learning, education and training - even in those still at school!
A recent addition to the Venture Trust team was Amelia Whistance Holmes, just 14 years old and looking to learn more about the charity sector, and the work that Venture Trust undertakes to help people at the very edges of society. Amelia was on work experience from Plockton High School in the Highlands, shadowing her mother, Jess Whistance, and learning about Communications and Marketing, as well as how Venture Trust charity operates, and the programmes that it runs.
Amelia comments, "There is a lot more to Venture Trust than I thought. The work it is doing to help people who are struggling with really difficult things in life, is amazing. The programmes that take people out into the outdoors and teach them about working together, and new skills, is such a great way of making things interesting and at the same time is helping to change lives. I learnt so much. I don't think I want to go into marketing and communications like my mum as I realised that there was a lot more research and emails and spending time on the phone organising things than I expected. Even setting up a story for television was not as interesting as I imagined - there was a lot of time spent writing notes and changing plans, and preparing people - not very glamourous!"
Amelia was tasked with researching ways to raise the profile of Venture Trust and its programmes to different audiences, sourcing new publications and digital resources. She was also tasked with looking at Venture Mor, the growing social enterprise that works to provide a sustainable income for Venture Trust programmes.
Jess Whistance, Communications & Marketing Manager at Venture Trust commented, "It was great having Millie working with me. It was a chance for me to show her the really crucial work that goes on at Venture Trust, and to show her what it is that I do. She was really inspired by Venture Trust, and how they support people to change their lives - how can you not be? But my job? I am not sure I will be seeing Millie following in my PR footsteps any time soon!"
For more information about Venture Trust's programmes, please click here.
A group of Glasgow based young carers celebrated the progress they had made with a film screening at the GMAC in Glasgow. The group of young people had, over previous months, taken a unique journey ‘back through the centuries,’ living the life of a Highland Drover.
A film of the 8 day wilderness journey, which utilised the outdoors as a catalyst for personal development, and learning new skills, was screened at the GMAC Film Centre on Thursday 8 June. The project, run by Venture Trust with Historic Environment Scotland, saw youngsters cover up to ten miles daily on a week’s wilderness journey across the Highlands, learning about routes taken by drovers and how they lived.
The group are all young carers involved in providing different levels of support to family members. They found time to go every Thursday after school to Venture Trust’s centre in Duke Street to prepare the ground for the wilderness journey.
In their week in the wild, the carers followed droving routes from Argyll to Stirling, learning about folklore and heritage of the drovers – a history which spans the centuries from the 14th to the 1940s.
Venture Trust worked with the group on personal development, safety and survival in the wilderness. The young people also learned about endurance and resilience by camping, cooking and sleeping outdoors just as the drovers would have done.
A major aim of the project is to encourage more young people to learn about Scotland’s history and heritage. The carers visited historic sites on the wilderness journey, including a stone - floored longhouse at Auchindrain Township near Inveraray, and the grave of Rob Roy, while also trying their hand at stone masonry in Stirling Castle.
James Turner, Historic Environment Scotland said: “We are proud to be working with Venture Trust. It’s been so rewarding to celebrate the environment with these inspirational young adults.”
Venture Trust will follow up on the wilderness journey by giving the carers one-to-one support for the next 12 months. The week in the wilderness allowed the young people to develop new skills in editing, photography, and filming, as well as learning crucial life skills in teamwork, responsibility, and communication; all of which will open up new possibilities for future training, volunteering and employment.
Every young person will get a copy of their film and certificates for completing the journey. The project, called ‘Young Roots’ received a grant of £49,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, advice and practical support from Historic Environment Scotland.
Today marks the end of Volunteers’ Week Scotland (1-7 June 2017), which has seen charities celebrate the vital contribution made by volunteers the length and breadth of the country – the work of volunteers contributes an estimated £2.6 billion every year to the Scotland.
Nikki has been volunteering with the funding team at our Edinburgh office for two days a week since September 2016, and has made a great contribution to our fundraising efforts, particularly focussing on making applications to Trusts & Foundations. As someone who has a love of the outdoors and a desire to help people negotiate difficult life situations, she told us,
"I’m very much drawn to the ethos and values of the Venture Trust. I’m inspired by how the charity combines lessons and values that can be gained by wilderness challenges with very practical, valuable life skills once back home."
Nikki, who lives in Edinburgh with her husband and children, also volunteers as a Beaver Scout Leader, and loves getting herself and her family outdoors. She has taken on a number of charity challenges over the years, completing the Edinburgh Marathon for us in 2014.
"It was an amazing experience running the marathon for Venture Trust in 2014- the fundraising team were really encouraging and appreciative of my efforts and I knew then it was for a great cause.
“Now, volunteering in Venture Trust’s head offices, I get to see more of where the fundraising money goes and the amazing difference the charity Trust makes to people's lives. I would heartily encourage anyone considering doing a sponsored challenge to consider doing it for Venture Trust.”
Nicola Clark, our Employability & HR Officer commented,
“Volunteers bring a unique range of skills and abilities to complement those of our fantastic staff team, and create additional capacity to develop key pieces of work. In 2016/17 volunteers contributed an incredible 890 hours to supporting our fundraising, finance and administrative functions.
“We recognise the generosity of individuals giving up their time and sharing their expertise with us, and pride ourselves on ensuring all volunteering opportunities are of value to the individual too; whether through tailored and supported inductions, providing opportunity for volunteers to attend in-house training opportunities or registering volunteers for Saltire Awards to formally acknowledge hours committed to Venture Trust.”
A huge thank you to all our volunteers, past and present, who have freely contributed their time, skills, and enthusiasm to support Venture Trust.
Upcoming opportunities include volunteer positions on our Board of Directors.
If you are interested in volunteering with Venture Trust please get in touch with Nicola on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0131 228 7700.