Historic Perthshire was the setting for an innovative new partnership between Venture Trust and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) that saw a group of vulnerable women exploring and understanding the past in order to move towards a better future.
Photo Credit: Historic Environment Scotland
Understanding Our Place in Time – funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund - combines historic and heritage themes with Venture Trust’s Next Steps programme which supports women involved in offending or at high risk of offending, suffering from trauma or abusive relationships, facing homelessness, misuse of drugs or alcohol or other challenging life circumstances.
The personal development programme is made up of three-phases one of which involves getting women into the outdoors. This is preceded by one-to-one support followed with ongoing skills development in the community. HES and Venture Trust staff will work together to weave heritage and the historic environment throughout the programme.
For many Next Steps participants life has been filled with chaos, fear and anxiety. Engaging in history and getting outdoors is often the furthest thing from their minds or is not possible in their current situation.
During the five-day outdoor residential phase in Perthshire, while hiking, abseiling, and canoeing the group of women learnt history isn’t just about their past, it is a vital part of all their lives, right now. It tells about the past, the present – and even points the way to the future. The historic environment makes a real difference to people’s lives. A difference to health, economy, culture and environment.
Reaching out to touch the ancient stone wall of Dunkeld’s ruined cathedral, drifting on Loch Faskally to learn about an old hydro-electric power station and hearing and creating their own tales and myths the women saw the historic environment, connected with it, created it, understood it and explored it. Something they will be able to continue to do in everyday life.
Venture Trust head of operations Mike Strang said:
“A connection to our heritage is important, as it brings us closer to our land, brings an insight into what has been there before and our roots. It teaches us what we need to do to safeguard for future generations. Understanding our heritage also builds connection with our communities and society creating bonds and contributors.
“We are delighted to be able to work with HES to build heritage into our Next Steps programme.”
HES senior casework officer James Turner said:
“Using Venture Trust’s outdoor learning approach, and Historic Environment Scotland’s mission to widen opportunities for everyone to understand, enjoy, and connect with the historic environment, we greatly welcomed the opportunity to work with the participants of this project.
“We visited Dunkeld Cathedral to consider how the historic environment can offer a valuable resource and breathing space from day to day life, took a canoe trip on Loch Faskally to chat about the B-listed 1950 Clunie hydro-electric power station and its place in the landscape, and rounded up our involvement with a session discussing local folklore, ballads and storytelling.
“We hope we have been able to show that the past can make a better future, change lives for the better, make us feel happier, more informed, better connected, and to encourage all of us to get outdoors and active.”
Head of The National Lottery Heritage Fund Scotland Caroline Clark said:
“The National Lottery Heritage Fund encourages organisations working in heritage to approach and engage with others who have broader health and wellbeing aims. Understanding Our Place in Time: Women at risk of offending discovering their place in heritage is a fine example of organisations working together, helping individuals to be more active and have a positive impact on their wellbeing.”
The Next Steps programme in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Venture Trust has employed two Community Links Workers to improve and increase the charity’s support of veterans struggling with the transition to civilian life.
The workers, one based in Glasgow and the second in Edinburgh, will engage with local and national support organisations to raise awareness and knowledge of Venture Trust’s programmes for ex Armed Forces Personnel – particularly those with a history of offending behaviours or those reluctant to self-identify as veterans or engage with support.
One of the focuses will be on bridging the gap between veteran and civilian organisations to reach ‘hidden veterans’.
With over 50 veterans’ organisations in Scotland alone, there is no shortage of services being offered to veterans after they leave the Armed Forces. These services typically support veterans who are older people, have been wounded or are suffering from recognised mental health issues along with those struggling with the transition to civilian life.
However, research findings from Venture Trust and insights from the organisation’s work with ex-servicemen and women has highlighted there is a small but significant group of struggling working-age veterans who are not accessing existing support services. These are the ‘hidden veterans’.
There are challenges for organisations working with ex-service personnel who don’t immediately identify themselves as ‘veterans’. Some don’t know they are eligible for support, including ESLs and reservists. Some “don’t think they deserve it” or think “other veterans deserve it more than them”. For others, issues emerge many years after leaving the Armed Forces - issues which may or may not have been caused by their forces’ experience - so there is a reluctance to seek support from veterans’ organisations. Studies reveal ESLs along with veterans caught up in the criminal justice system are most at risk of making a poor transition from service to civilian life, so it is important these groups are engaged to access available support.
By employing two dedicated staff who have served in the Armed Forces or have experience of working with the Armed Forces, Venture Trust will further strengthen and broaden its partnerships with military charities, the wider third sector and public sector agencies to reach hidden veterans more effectively.
Venture Trust helps struggling veterans – no matter how long their military service – work towards achieving their personal goals. These could be re-deploying skills learnt within the military, finding a home, rebuilding broken relationships, working towards living a healthy, safe and stable life, retraining or applying for a job or utilising their skills through volunteering.
Newly appointed Community Links Worker (East) Karen Holmes said: “This role is very important as there are ex-military personnel out there that can benefit from Venture Trust’s programmes.
Karen is a former servicewoman and understands the importance of getting support when faced with challenges transitioning to civilian life. After overcoming her challenges with the support of Venture Trust she is now working for us.
“I strongly believe in the programmes they run as I was once a participant. You get support all the way through the three-phase programme of personal development.
“This is my dream job, I will be helping ex-military personnel, but I will be also promoting the organisation and the work we do. I hope to make Venture Trust more visible to other military and civilian organisations and to engage in partnerships with them,” she said.
“If you are thinking of attending Positive Futures or referring a client, go to the website, get in touch and send in a referral form. Don’t wait. It could be you next making positive changes and looking at a positive future.”
Find out more: www.venturetrust.org.uk
The positions of the Community Links Workers are made possible by funding from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust.
Our Inspiring Young Futures programmes allows young people to realise their potential.
With the support of funders like The Robertson Trust, the three-phase personal development programme allows young people to discover that there are strengths that they didn't think they had, draw on aspects of their background and personality to solve problems.
Other key skills include communication, time management, accountability, establishing trust, dealing with challenging situations, and giving and receiving feedback.
Our approach is preventative and long-term. We focus on an individual’s strengths, equipping them with essential life-skills and building confidence.
Together, we can tackle a cycle of harm and inequality which leaves some people in the margins of society. With the sustained support and new skills, young people are moving towards further education, training and work.
Watch the video below to find out more about this wonderful partnership that is changing young people's lives:
To achieve their mission of improving the quality of life and realising the potential of people and communities in Scotland, The Robertson Trust focus on four high-level outcomes:
- improving outcomes for individuals and communities
- improving capacity of third sector organisations to deliver impact to their beneficiaries
- building and using evidence to inform policy and practice
- developing our own understanding of our role as a funder.
They do this by:
- funding and supporting charitable organisations of all sizes who are committed to achieving positive change for individuals and communities across Scotland
- building understanding of the root causes of problems and testing potential approaches and solutions
- supporting talented young people who may face barriers to education and development
Scottish Veterans Commissioner Charlie Wallace recently met with a group of former Armed Service members at Venture Trust’s base in Stirling after they returned from seven days in the wilds of Scotland.
The group of participants had just completed their wilderness journey as part of a three-phase personal development programme with Venture Trust.
The Positive Futures programme is specifically for ex-Service men and women; individuals who may have a wealth of experience and skills, but who are finding it difficult to either transition fully into civilian life or are struggling with maintaining a civilian focussed identity.
It helps participants work towards achieving their personal goals. These could be re-deploying skills learnt within the military, finding a home, rebuilding broken relationships, working towards living a healthy, safe and stable life, retraining or applying for a job or utilising their skills through volunteering. All of these are highlighted as significant issues encountered when transitioning to civilian life.
We use Scotland's spectacular wild places to deliver intense personal development. The outdoors is inherently challenging. These environments challenge individuals to focus on actions and their consequences - encouraging the discovery of new skills and talents and helping participants to become more self reliant. The sense of space and the distance from everyday life gives individuals time to reflect on their lives and plan the changes they'd like to make.
Sunburnt, windswept, midge bitten but smiling and on top of the world, the ex-service personnel shared their experiences with the Veterans Commissioner.
“It’s brilliant to have someone working to improve the lives and opportunities of veterans sit down and listen to what we are going through,” one of the participants said.
“Hopefully we can help show that programmes like this do make a difference,” another said.
Veterans Commissioner Charlie Wallace said:
“I was delighted to be able to visit and talk to the group of veterans who recently completed the Venture Trust’s ‘Positive Futures’ programme – designed specifically for veterans struggling with transition and integration into their civilian lives.
“It was heartening to hear first-hand from the group and staff how valuable the veterans found the programme. Initiatives like this play a valuable part in helping our veterans improve their confidence to deal with aspects of their civilian lives which they find challenging. Successful integration from the military into the civilian world is not always easy and the Venture Trust should be applauded for recognising this and developing ‘Positive Futures’ alongside their other programmes.”
Venture Trust CEO Amelia Morgan said:
“It was fantastic to have Charlie Wallace meet participants of our Positive Futures programme at our National Participant Centre. It sends a really positive message of support to our participants – for those past, and those about to head out on the next Positive Futures journey.
“For all of those leaving the military, it marks a complete change. Most ex-service personnel thrive, going on to have successful careers and balanced lives. But for a small minority the transition to civilian life can be overwhelming and confusing which can lead to a multitude of negative circumstances.
"Research is showing the Positive Futures programme is offering veterans the support and space to begin to see themselves differently – that they can have a different life. Many are going on to further education, training, volunteering or employment, and this is a key catalyst for positive life changes.”
For more information about Positive Futures click here.
Positive Futures is funded by the Chancellor using LIBOR funds. It was also previously funded by The Forces in Mind Trust with a three-year pilot.
Venture Mòr's wilderness therapy has been featured in Prospect Magazine.
Venture Mòr staff Andy Hardie and Richard Tildesley insightfully and honestly explain in the article how the challenges of nature and the support of experienced psychotherapists and skilled outdoor instructors make Wilderness Therapy a viable alternative to improving physical and mental health.
Wilderness Therapy offers a valuable approach to supporting people with mental health issues particularly at a time when there is ever-increasing use of anti-depressants, along with an even greater number of individuals struggling to access (under pressure) mental health services.
Anti-depressants and other prescription drugs used to treat depression, ADHD, mental health issues and anxiety can be initially helpful. But for many, medication alone is not proving to be the answer. Traditional therapeutic support such as counselling, psychotherapy, CBT, and CAMHS can help but at times are not able to allow people to make the changes they were hoping for.
The challenges of nature and the support of experienced psychotherapists and skilled outdoor instructors make Wilderness Therapy a viable alternative to improving physical and mental health.
Wilderness Therapy can reach an individual in ways that are long-lasting and life changing. It is an approach that merits and demands exploration and support from the private and public sectors. And can provide relief for an overburdened public mental health system.
Click the image above to read the article.