Aaron is working on repairing a bicycle. He volunteers at The Bike Station in Edinburgh – a charity that works with community and youth groups to develop skills and self-worth through working on donated bikes.
He has recently completed Venture Trust's CashBack Change Cycle employability programme for disadvantged young people in Scotland.
Bikes are a big part of Aaron’s life. So is finding a job. Building his own bike and improving his employability skills were the perfect combination.
The programme - funded by CashBack for Communities from the proceeds of crime - is harnessing the benefits of cycling to give young people the skills to get into employment, training or volunteering. It is delivered in partnership with The Bike Station and Bike for Good in Glasgow.
For many, the bike they build also gets them to work, college or place of volunteering.
“The CashBack Change Cycle programme was fantastic because it combined my love of bicycles with some really valuable and essential skills to help me get a job. CV writing, computer skills and qualifications like manual handling, fire safety and first aid are all important to have on any job application,” Aaron said.
“The skills I developed and now the work experience I’m getting by volunteering will make me more qualified to get a full-time job.”
Aiden, 16, has recently started his first job. He often cycles to work.
The bike he rides is one he built himself as part of an innovative employability programme for vulnerable young people run by Scottish charity Venture Trust.
“Having the bike let me get this job. I can get to work on time and don’t have to spend a lot of money on transport,” Aiden said.
“Through building the bike in the workshop and doing the qualifications on the Change Cycle programme my confidence improved and I learnt lots of important skills to help with getting a job.”
June 8-16 is Bike Week and Venture Trust employability worker Zoe Grove said it was great to celebrate the event by highlighting the role a bicycle can play in changing the lives of young people facing challenging life circumstances.
“Participants learn about responsibility and getting up to be at a job Monday to Friday. They get to keep the bike they have built and use it for job hunting, accessing services, training, getting to work, and leisure,” he said.
“There also the added benefits of improving physical fitness, helping mental welllbeing by giving young people the opportunity to get away from things. They can head out to a trail, to a park or green space and escape for a while.”
By volunteering at The Bike Station, Aaron continues to develop his employability skills. As he fixes and services bikes for other people to use - bikes that will hopefully be used by more people to hit the road and tracks this Bike Week and in the future - Aaron reflects on what a bike means to him.
“A bicycle allows me to be active but and puts me in a good headspace. Studies have shown cycling has a massive benefit for mental health. It allows me to travel to more places, it’s independence, an extra leg of freedom, it’s great for the environment and for me it’s happiness.”
My name is Annabelle Mcpherson and I'm a recovering alcoholic.
You may read this and wonder why I say recovering and not recovered. Alcoholism is something I will carry for the rest of my life and it is a daily battle which I deal with one day at a time.
I cannot do it alone but thankfully I have been able to reach out for help and after working with Scottish charity Venture Trust and the continuing support of Alcoholics Anonymous I am able to do this.
In 2014, I crashed my car on the M6 motorway. I was three times over the drink-drive limit. Fortunately, nobody was hurt but there is never a day that goes by when I don’t regret my actions. As a result of this I was given a five-year ban, 200 hours community service, court costs and 12 weeks suspended sentence.
Already at a low point in my life, I was now in the criminal justice system.
Through the community justice pathway, I was offered the chance to attend a women's group to begin my rehabilitation.
It was at one of my group meetings that I met some staff from an organisation that would change my life. The organisation was Venture Trust. Two outreach workers came and spoke to the group about the Next Steps programme for women.
Venture Trust provides evidence led and impact driven criminal justice programmes across Scotland. The three-phase personal and social development programme is offered in communities across Scotland and the Scottish wilderness.
The focus is on development in three aspects of life and society aiming to allow everyone to lead a healthy, happy and fulfilling life irrespective of their past. These aspects are wellbeing, prevention and rehabilitation and skills to be ready for work and future learning.
I had been a practicing alcoholic for many years with countless vain attempts to get sober and beat this disease. It took me to many dark places: attempted suicide, psychiatric care, lost driving licence, hurt family and friends, broken promises, the list is endless and worst of all my two daughters taken away to live with their dad because alcohol had become more important to me and I was unable to look after them.
When you are a practicing alcoholic, life becomes a long, black, endless hole. Venture Trust put edges to that and a light at the end which made it no longer an abyss, but a tunnel I could get out of.
The five-day wilderness journey and residential brought many challenging activities, and a lot of soul bearing. There were tears, laughs and shared moments. But after the five days, it brought hope. Most of all hope and many friends made for life.
Venture Trust is an amazing charity comprised of wonderful caring professional people who truly are there to put broken individuals back together and help them move forward to a brighter future.
The organisation has been an enormous part of me getting to where I am today - teaching me self-worth, positivity, confidence, hope, belief in myself and many more life skills.
I am not going to even pretend that everything was plain sailing because it wasn't. There were slips and trips of sobriety along the way, but it was easier to be sober for longer, and to eventually stay sober. Venture Trust was there every step of the way and I was able to do a mentoring course to help others in a similar position to me.
In 2017 I decided to do a sponsored swim in aid of Venture Trust to try and show my gratitude in a small way for everything they have done for me and so many others. I swam the length of the River Tweed – my local river in my local pool in Duns. In two months, after 6144 lengths I completed the 96 miles. As a “hopeless” alcoholic who would sit in the house for days on end, barely able to walk, no job, or family, my life and health all on a knife edge, I had come or swum a long way. The support and generosity from the staff at the pool, all my friends, family and the community was incredible and helped me raise over £1800.
It’s still one day at a time - but I am grabbing my second chance with both hands. My girls have come back to live with me of their own choice. We have just moved into a lovely three-bedroom house, I have respect from family and friends and a job that I Iove. But most of all I have my own self-respect and today I can look in the mirror and love who is looking back!
Annabelle Mcpherson is a former Venture Trust participant.
First published in The Scotsman - Friday 08 March 2019
For more information about Venture Trust’s programmes visit: www.venturetrust.org.uk
Prevention and rehabilitation are fundamental to creating safer communities in Scotland and tackling the harm caused by crime.
Venture Trust welcomes the Scottish Government's commitment to encouraging the greater use of more effective community sentences to break cycles of reoffending.
On May 17th, the Government published an order to extend presumption against short prison sentences. Subject to the approval of Parliament, the existing presumption will be extended from three to 12 months and come into force this summer.
Venture Trust CEO Amelia Morgan said: “At Venture Trust, we would argue that we need to place far greater emphasis on rehabilitation in addition to unpaid work as part of any community sentence to facilitate behaviour change and assist more individuals to reduce their risk of reoffending and complete their sentence. Independent evaluations show our criminal justice programmes have had positive impacts on individuals. They have gained new skills, improved their confidence and have started working or studying. They are more stable and less likely to reoffend. These positive changes are then transferred to their families and communities.”
Statistics show people released from a custodial sentence of 12 months or less are reconvicted nearly twice as often as those sentenced to serve a Community Payback Order (CPO).
Often it was poverty, inequality and adverse childhood experiences and the trauma resulting from domestic abuse, addiction to drugs and alcohol that underpinned offending behaviour, Amelia said.
“Addressing underlying causes and taking a compassionate approach will reduce the impacts of crime. It means believing people can change and can come back from their mistakes. Someone’s past – where they grew up, their family background or previous negative and damaging experiences – does not have to define them. Diverting more people away from the justice system does create safer communities. It does break the cycle of offending and reduce the social harm and financial costs for individuals, families and communities.”
Investing in reliable and effective community provision and a collaborative public and third sector response will help people get their lives back on track and away from potential involvement in crime.
Our intensive personal development and the powerful catalyst of the outdoors helps people gain greater understanding with confidence in themselves and how they connect with others and the wider world leading to lasting positive change. Importantly individuals are more able to overcome setbacks and navigate ‘systems’, such as accessing benefits, securing and sustaining a suitable home and staying out of prison.
A former Venture Trust participant highlights the benefits of trying to divert individuals – where it is possible – away from prison. “Before Venture Trust I was on a one-way ticket to prison. I’m now a fully qualified plumber. My life’s changed for the better, I’m healthier, happier, thriving. I’ve got a career now, I can see a future.”
Lucy has also benefitted from Venture Trust’s community justice programmes. “Without that second chance and the support from Venture Trust and other organisations I wouldn’t be where I am today. That second chance allowed me to become part of society and my community again. It allowed me to repair broken relationships, get healthy, get an education and have hope. We’ve all made mistakes and if more people are given the support and opportunity to change, Scotland will be a better and safer place.”
Watch Lucy's Story by clicking on the image below:
Venture Trust is looking forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government and our current partners along with building future partnerships to reduce the harm of crime by supporting people who have offended or are at risk of offending.
Read All About It.
It’s that time again! In this May edition of the Supporter Newsletter you will see just how busy everyone at Venture Trust has been over the last month.
From news articles, presentations to The Scottish Government and miles under the feet training for the Edinburgh Marathon Festival catch up on the latest happenings.
If want to be kept up to date about Venture Trust's activities sign up for our supporter newsletter on our website.
A new partnership between Venture Trust and The Wheatley Group (a leading social property management company), will support young Scottish people struggling to find and secure safe, stable and supported tenancies because of multiple complex barriers.
These can include unemployment, involvement in the criminal justice system, substance misuse, low self-belief, relationship breakdowns and mental health issues.
This partnership is made possible with funding from Comic Relief and will help support 120 young people who have previously, or are currently at risk of, experiencing homelessness.
Read Venture Trust CEO Amelia Morgan's article in The Scotsman about how the project will tackle homelessness by equipping individuals with core skills, building longer term stability and averting repeat or potential episodes of homelessness.