Copyright Stefan Durkacz
Stefan has completed his 457km solo backpacking challenge around the River Tay watershed in aid of Venture Trust... a huge congratulations!
On 18th May, Stefan set out on his mammoth five-week lap of the River Tay watershed in aid of Venture Trust and Scottish Wild Land Group. The River Tay is the largest river catchment in Scotland cutting across both the Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland. Stefan began from Monifieth Sands and finished five weeks later at Tentsmuir Point in north-east Fife. View Stefan's full route here.
Despite living in London since 2001, Stefan has managed to remain an outdoor enthusiast and was excited to take on 457km solo challenge:
"I've had a lifelong infatuation with the outdoors, especially the hills and mountains of Scotland and have long wanted to take on the challenge of an extended backpacking expedition. I've been guilty of being a Munro bagger, grabbing summits on day trips and fleeting, often unsatisfying, visits, measuring progress by ticks on a list. Backpacking, however, offers a much deeper satisfaction - something I've always known deep down... Journeying over the land under my own steam, being self-sufficient, sleeping out under the sky, linking these places up to create a whole, is a thrilling prospect."
Copyright Stefan Durkacz
On why he chose to raise money for Venture Trust, Stefan explains on his blog:
"I believe that wild land is essential, not just something that's nice to have. I was lucky enough to have unfettered and often unsupervised access to the outdoors when I was growing up. I took it for granted, and learned important lessons without realising."
Stefan admitted that the hardest part of the trip was being away from his family. On top of that he battled with midges, rain, and was almost hit by lightening:
"I heard the first thunderclap just the other side of An Sgarsoch. I froze: too late to run, nowhere to hide anyway. A flash and another bang, closer now. I threw away my trekking poles and dropped to a crouch. Minutes passed. I started to look up. Everything went white and a gunshot bang sounded, everywhere at once, almost inside my head too. I sprawled, and from depths of memory the Hail Mary came to mind. I recited what I could remember as a mantra to control my fear and stop myself from running."
But despite these challenges, Stefan continued on:
"The final two days of walking were wonderful. I saw golden eagles on Leathad an Taobhain and Carn na Caim, descended a magical tree-lined ravine following a burn from moor to valley floor, marvelled at the awesome Gaick Pass, and fell asleep to the sound of peewits and oystercatchers. The weather grew sunny and warm. The longer I spent alone outdoors the more I noticed. The rhythm of the journey was sinking into me as I sank into the landscape."
I think everyone at Venture Trust can really relate to Stefan's journey, filled with ups and downs, peaks and troughs, high points and low points but overall, an overwhelming sense of achievement. The wilderness is an environment naturally conducive to reflection, challenge, and change, which Venture Trust's participants experience whilst on their own personal development expedition and Stefan's journey along the Tay Watershed really does strike a chord:
"The end had to come eventually... There was the quiet satisfaction of seeing the venture through good and bad to the end. There was also the sense that if the experience had changed me in [many ways], these changes would play out slowly and subtly, at unpredictable times and unexpected ways."
A big thank you to Stefan from everyone at Venture Trust! Please do head over to Stefan's blog for a stage by stage description of his incredible challenge, stunning photos, kit lists, and more. Stefan has also been featured on www.ukhillwalking.com on the 4th July and 28th July; two really great articles that give a fantastic flavour of his journey.
If you're feeling inspired and would like to take on a challenge of your own to raise money for Venture Trust, please visit out Events Page for more information.
"The wilderness is an inherently challenging thing: it has a way of kicking the crutches and distractions away and showing us what we're really made of, which is often more than we think."
Copyright Stefan Durkacz
Next Steps: helping women make positive life changes and escape cycles of offending
Venture Trust is delighted to announce today that it has been awarded £840,320 from the Big Lottery Fund to expand its highly successful “Next Steps” programme, helping 360 of Scotland’s most vulnerable women to transform their lives.
Over the next 3 years, this national project will enable Venture Trust to work alongside established criminal justice partners across Scotland to address the needs of women who are currently caught up in a cycle of offending. It will provide a three staged approach tailored to the needs of each individual, including initial engagement and assessment, a wilderness-based personal development expedition, and community based aftercare support. In close partnership with fellow charity ‘Move On’, it will additionally train 60 women to become ‘peer mentors’ helping others in similar circumstances.
Linking directly with the Angiolini Report’s recommendations, Venture Trust’s work has evolved to improve support for women to escape offending. Building on Venture Trust’s established expertise, women will take part in a life-changing wilderness expedition. This is a key catalytic component for making and sustaining a change in their lives, and learning the life-skills necessary to sustain them. Individually tailored 1-to-1 outreach support provides support, advice and encouragement – a key relationship on which women can depend.
“Venture Trust’s Next Steps programme has been developed and refined over several years to address a number of the key issues highlighted in Dame Angiolini’s report. Thus far, we have worked closely with a small number of partners in Local Authorities. Thanks to this award from the Big Lottery, we can now further develop and deliver this service, with partners, on a truly national basis, improving the outcomes for women offenders and addressing Dame Angiolini’s observation that: ‘services which target the offending and rehabilitative features and characteristics of women offenders are not consistently provided throughout Scotland’”: Mark Bibbey: Venture Trust, Chief Executive.
One group of women each year will also use photography to document their experiences and journey through the programme. This previously piloted photography element enables participants to focus subjectively on what is important to them, deepening their personal development experience.
Venture Trust, in partnership with the Big Lottery Fund and Move On, will deliver bespoke intensive personal and social development services, which aim to reduce risk of re-offending and substance misuse and to support women to access other services that will further improve their lives.
“Next Steps has been innovative in both its approach to partnership working and in delivering a service that has outstanding outcomes for female offenders. We are delighted to receive this funding from the Big Lottery to extend this provision throughout the country for a very vulnerable group within our society.” Joe Connelly: Venture Trust, Head of Programmes.
Check out The Big Lottery Fund Scotland's blog, The Big Blog Scotland, for a Next Steps case study!
'There is hope of salvation for those who live on the wilder side in our society and fall foul of the law' says Joe Connelly.
Venture Trust was featured in The Scotsman on Thursday 26th June! Joe Connelly, Head of Programmes, talks specifically about the Living Wild programme and how it offers ' a chance for change' to young men and women caught up in offending:
'Over the past 12 years, I have had the opportunity to work with many young people and it is one of our programmes which continues to inspire me'
Joe talks about each of the three phases of the Living Wild programme and how each of these phases is crucial to enabling individuals to make positive progress:
Phase 1 outreach work is geared towards getting an individual to a place where they can think about the negative aspects of how their behaviour impacts on their families and communities and to ensure a level of stability that would allow them to progress to Phase 2. Phase 2 is a wilderness-based personal development journey which focuses on taking individuals out of their own environment, and presenting them with a number of both pysical and mental challenges. Phase 3 is where an indivdual is supported to transfer their Phase 2 learning to their own home environment and, with regular outreach support, enables participants to seek opportunities in training, education, and employment.
'Over the years I have heard reference made to the need for behaviour change but, in truth, there must first be a change in the thinking of the indivdual for their behaviour to change.'
Nearly 700 individuals have progressed through the Living Wild programme in the last five years and Joe proudly states that 'We will continue to offer those in need "a chance to change" and an opportunity to channel their talents towards a positive future'.
You can read the full article on The Scotsman website.
It’s encouraging to see how effective partnerships between the Private Sector and the Third Sector are developing.
The relationship between corporates and charities, which at times has been blurred and diffuse, is at a watershed with a refocus on shared values, community credentials, and an oftentimes explicitly stated commitment to be responsible and responsive. There is an imperative for change which benefits the young people with whom we work, and the corporate partners who we actively engage.
There is much optimism and a sense that positive change can be effected at a societal, a community, and an individual level. This is something to nurture and develop for mutual benefit. The look and the feel of these partnerships, and the ‘walk’ and the ‘talk’, are in step, and it’s coming from a good place... this is a good time for Venture Trust as we seek to develop and grow the scale and quality of our corporate partnerships.
The Venture Together programme is an outstanding example. It has the look and feel of a partnership that makes a difference to the lives of young people. Venture Trust, along with co-delivery partner Venture Scotland, has been working closely with Barclays, the UK based banking and financial services company, for nearly two years.
The partnership is grounded in a shared interest and desire to help young people grow their self esteem, their employability, and help them in their journey to becoming effective contributors in the future. The features of the programme are a series of employability workshops, delivered by Barclays staff, which includes CV writing, mock interviews, and budgeting. The programme culminates in a Bothy weekend, combining a wilderness setting with a personal development journey. A group of 6 – 8 young people, accompanied by Barclays staff, spend a weekend living in a Bothy and undertake a conservation project working as a team and learning a number of valuable life skills along the way.
The young people who participate in the Venture Together programme have typically spent 12-15 months on one of Venture Trust’s personal development programmes, having previously undertaken a wilderness expedition, and are now in the Phase 3 ‘community links’ stage of their journey . This is a real milestone for them and recognises that they have put in a lot of work to get to the point where the Venture Together programme has relevance for them. It is a huge affirmation of their personal commitment to bringing about the change that they want in their lives.
The relationship is characterised by the commitment of the Barclays staff, who give their time and talent to help young people and have genuine enthusiasm for being involved in what we do. The most recent Bothy weekend took place at Glen Etive at the end of May with Stephen, from Barclays, joining the group for the weekend.
Stephen reflects on his experience of being a participant and the insight that he gained from the weekend and said:
“It has been a real privilege working on the Venture Together programme. The combination of using Scotland’s wilderness with more conventional learning methods really does work and creates a very strong framework for the participants in achieving their longer term employment goals. To see how at ease all the participants were with the countryside was truly inspiring and the challenges set out allowed the team to demonstrate all the key skills needed in the work place – leadership, planning, team work, respect and of course good old fashioned hard work. Working with the participants and volunteers also taught me a lot about myself and represents one of the best development opportunities available to us at Barclays.”
To celebrate the achievements of the participants of the Bothy Weekend Barclays hosted a graduation ceremony at their splendid Georgian office in Edinburgh earlier in June. This marked a milestone in the delivery of the programme and acknowledged and affirmed the value it has for the partnership, the participants and the staff from Barclays.
Sheila, from Barclays, who opened the Graduation ceremony, commented:
‘At the Graduation ceremony, it was a privilege to meet the participants and hear how proud they were of what they had achieved. In hearing their own personal journey, it showed how much progress they had made as part of the Venture Together initiative since beginning this. The young individuals commented on their increase in confidence, the skills they now had to draw from and the hope that they now had in progressing their futures. Highlight of the day was hearing the success of those unable to attend as a result of securing a job, fantastic! It’s a pleasure for myself and all of the Barclays volunteers to be involved in partnership with Venture Trust, as we also get so much from this. It’s a terrific feeling to know you have contributed in some small way to these young people’s ability to move towards a better future’
‘John’ one of the Venture Together participants who received his award at the graduation ceremony said:
'I feel like a much more confident person and have learned some new skills especially in how to prepare for an interview and budgeting to manage my money. It has helped to make me more responsible and have more control over my day to day life. After the course I took copies of my CV down to Lennoxtown, where I live, and circulated them and also in Glasgow city centre. It felt good to be proactive and take action.'
Mark Bibbey , CEO Venture Trust, was invited to speak to Barclays Staff at their recent Townhall meeting in Glasgow at the end of June:
“Barclays investment of staff and resources in the Venture Together programme has had a multiplier effect on the outcomes achieved by our participants to the ultimate benefit of not only themselves, but also their communities. The employability master-classes have hugely improved our participants’ chances of getting a job, but the programme has also served to break down barriers, improve mutual understanding and to introduce additional positive adult role models into the lives of our participants. It’s not for me to judge the benefits for Barclays, but I would hope that Venture Together has served the Citizenship agenda well and that they feel there are real benefits personally, professionally and corporately from close involvement in the programme.”
The partnership has a distinct personal development flavour which resonates with Barclays and allows its staff to really engage with the young people through the programme. The opportunity to share a common experience with young people, and to shape that experience, has real meaning and value. Venture Trust’s programmes provide a safe space where participants are enabled to view themselves differently, be viewed differently by others, and look to a more positive future. A true partnership exists when there are common touch points, similar aspirations, alignment of values, and a willingness to work together and venture together. Upward and onward to future corporate partnerships!
Congratulations to all of Venture Trust's marathon runners... and a huge thank you!
Despite the initial wind and rain, the Edinburgh Marathon Festival was one of our best yet! We were delighted to have 7 runners taking part in a number of different races all in aid of Venture Trust, and between them, they are set to raise over £1,200!
A HUGE thank you to Sherien who ran the 10K run, Nikki who ran the full marathon, Graeme who ran the Hairy Haggis relay, and Ben, Sharon, Katrina, and Holly who all ran the half marathon... and got some pretty impressive times under their belts!
If you're interested in getting involved, just head over the our events page and have a look at the events we have coming up. Got your own idea? Perfect! Just email firstname.lastname@example.org (the more imaginitive the better we say!).