Venture Trust and Cycling Scotland are working in tandem to break the cycle of disadvantage for young people through the power of bicycles.
A grant of £19,950 Cycling Scotland’s Cycling Friendly Communities Development Fund (CFCDF), provided by the Scottish Government, will fund part of Venture Trust’s Change Cycle employability programme based in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Many young adults referred to Venture Trust have come from life circumstances where they are not given the best start. They are often dealing with one or more of the following: poverty, alcohol and drug addiction, poor family relationships, mental health issues, learning and housing issues. The majority also have had little or no work experience.
The Cashback Change Cycle programme provides an informal educational and training environment focusing on ‘hands on’ learning. This type of learning is often more suited for the young people Venture Trust supports. It results in acquiring new skills along with increased confidence, motivation, ambition using the medium of cycling.
The elements of the programme include employability sessions, bike construction and maintenance including workshop experience and a short wilderness residential that has work-related tasks, and biking. Participants learn about responsibility, time management and are introduced to a Monday to Friday work schedule. They get to keep the bike they have built and use it for job hunting, accessing services, training, getting to work, and leisure.
The programme will also increase access to bikes and raise interest in cycling for a group of young people who would not normally be able to engage in the activity enjoyed and taken for granted by so many of their peers.
Venture Trust employability team coordinator Fraser Taylor said:
“It’s fantastic to be supported by Cycling Scotland, the nation’s cycling organisation, to support their vision for anyone anywhere in Scotland to cycle easily and safely.
“Many of the young people we work with come from some of Scotland’s poorest areas which has reduced their access to having a bicycle of their own. The CashBack Change Cycle programme supports individuals to build and own their own bike while developing their skills and confidence to move towards sustained education, training and employment so they can have a future that has moved beyond ‘just getting by’ and poverty.”
Pete Mills, Development Officer for the Cycling Friendly Community programme said:
“Historically, the bike has been a tool of freedom, independence and opportunity, and – through the work of the Cashback Change Cycle programme – it continues to be for many young people. We’re very happy to fund the Venture Trust to deliver their invaluable work, supporting Scotland’s vulnerable young people through more access to bikes and opportunities to cycle.”
Together Venture Trust and Cycling Scotland are promoting cycling and increasing participation for young people of all backgrounds, abilities, through the CashBack for Communities Change Cycle programme. But most importantly, the partnership is tackling a cycle of harm and inequality which leaves some people in the margins of society.
“I’d lost everything I had worked so hard to have in my life in a few short months because of my behaviour and bad choices.”
Shaun suffered from PTSD. His condition was triggered by tragic life events before his time in the military and exacerbated during deployment to Iraq. Eventually the trauma, nightmares and mental scarring “broke” him. Shaun turned to alcohol to numb the anguish and pain he was suffering.
However, instead of helping, alcohol ripped Shaun’s world apart.
“I lost my job, I almost lost my house, my partner at the time left and a lot of people could not handle my unpredictable behaviours,” he says.
When life hit rock bottom Shaun managed to get initial support from veteran charity Combat Stress. Through Combat Stress, he was referred to Venture Trust.
At Venture Trust we have been delivering intensive person-centred personal development in communities and the Scottish wilderness to help people who need more support to realise their potential. By offering intensive learning and development in communities and outdoors, we support people to gain life skills, stability and confidence. Our work aims to end cycles of disadvantage and adversity for individuals, their families and in communities.
We use experiential learning with cognitive and therapeutic developmental techniques to build skills and unlock confidence. This offers support and challenge, so individuals make sustained progress towards their goals. This can take time; we help people build the right foundations and protective factors to succeed for the rest of their lives.
The Positive Futures programme is specifically for veterans struggling with the transition to civilian life. It is for anyone who has served or been trained in the Armed Forces, including reservists and Territorial Army who have initially transitioned well or are currently struggling to transition to civilian life.
For Shaun, the programme was the catalyst for him to fight back from the brink and regain control of his life.
“It was amazing to be part of something again. At this stage I literally couldn’t feed my cat.”
There was sustained support and development during the three-phase programme. Firstly, Shaun was assigned an Outreach Worker who worked to stabilise the chaos in his life. Together they set clear and measurable goals to work towards in the build-up to Phase 2 – the wilderness journey.
The Scottish wilderness is at the heart of all our programmes, we give people time, space and intensive support in an outdoor setting.
This setting - far removed from participants' everyday environments - gives people the chance to tackle physical, emotional and social challenges. These challenges are carefully designed to encourage learning and development, to help participants increase their aspirations, confidence and motivation, and to develop a range of skills for life, learning and work.
Shaun says the space and time away allowed him to focus on what he wanted from life and taking part in intensive personal development began to rediscover strengths he had forgotten and discover new skills he didn't think he had.
One of the most important things Shaun realised was to ask for help.
Back in his community, Shaun had long-term support his Outreach Worker. She helped him to consolidate and apply new and old skills, and to use the tools developed to work towards opportunities such as employment, education, training and voluntary work.
On the shore of the Forth of Firth, the breeze creates small whitecaps and the gulls caw as they glide across the horizon. It’s a peaceful and calm scene.
“I can’t believe the chaos that consumed my life is now gone,” Shaun reflects.
“Through a combination of the skills and development I received from Venture Trust, support from Combat Stress, by taking a more active role in UK SMART Recovery and Forth Valley Recovery Community along with working with a mental health professional I have been able to make changes to my life.
“I began to see my own potential. I realised it was up to me to make different decisions and take different actions. But I also needed support to do that. Without Venture Trust and the other organisations who supported me, would I be in a second year of a counselling degree, would I be a SMART Recovery co-ordinator helping others who are in the same situation I used to be in?
“I’m living my life in the moment now and it’s brilliant.”