Venture Trust is piloting a new programme helping young people to take a rewarding break from caring responsibilities, to unleash their talents, and explore a largely unknown part of Scotland’s rich heritage.
Venture Trust is constantly developing and evolving programmes to help individuals build the confidence, the aspiration and the crucial lifeskills they need to move forward positively in their lives. We have joined forces with The Heritage Lottery Fund, young carers’ groups in Glasgow and National Museums Scotland to enable 12 young people with caring responsibilities to explore changing land use triggered by Scotland’s silent revolution, the Lowland Clearances.
Young people with caring responsibilities represent some of Scotland’s most resilient, most dedicated and most talented citizens. There are well over 100,000 amazing young Scots looking after family and friends, making a huge and largely unrecognised contribution to the country’s well-being, often at the expense of their own experience of growing up. This pilot project led by Venture Trust supports The Scottish Government’s aspiration to help such young people move forward positively in their lives, and is working with partner agencies committed to helping young people manage their caring responsibilities appropriately.
The programme in a nutshell
Working with the fantastic West Glasgow and South West Glasgow Carers’ Centres and the young people themselves, we created a programme which offered participants the chance to experience Scotland’s heritage 'up close and personal', through a range of experiential learning sessions culminating in a once-in-a-lifetime heritage journey through remote rural landscapes in Southern Scotland. This provided the opportunity to live, breathe and absorb the environments first-hand over several days, investigating and documenting the heritage of land use in the areas, learning new personal and technical skills, whilst enjoying a range of outdoor activities and personal development sessions throughout.
The heritage element of the programme focused upon changing land use triggered by the lowland clearances (Scotland's 'silent revolution') in the 1700s and onwards to the present day. Although the displacement of the rural population in the Highlands is a well-documented and painful episode in Scotland's history, the story of the Lowland Clearances had largely been lost until recently, but it marked a seminal moment in Scotland's physical and social development. The agricultural and industrial revolutions reshaped the landscape into the Scottish countryside as it is known today, and, while two generations of peasant farmers struggled with the upheaval of their traditional way of life, the Lowland Clearances set in motion a trend of depopulation and social fragmentation that arguably continues to affect the Southwest of Scotland several centuries later.
The group began their research in to the Lowland Clearances with a visit to the National Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride.
The participants began to unlock some of the mysteries of the Clearances, quizzing the museum staff and getting in amongst the exhibits:
“I had never heard of the Lowland Clearances before but now I have an idea what happened and why it was so bad.”
“The staff were very knowledgeable and told us all about the Clearances.”
“I found out that some people moved to America and Canada.”
Armed with this knowledge, the group finalised their preparations for the journey itself –their first blog tells the story.
During their heritage journey the Venture Trust group set out to experience some of the hardships that “cotters” cleared off the land would have encountered as they made their way towards the cities and New Towns in the 1700s. The group travelled across Southern Scotland, visiting historical sites and gathering information for their project on Scotland’s Lowland Clearances. Along the way they had to overcome torrential rain, gale force winds, a mountain rescue and leaky plates! You can read their account posted on the NMS blog based on the group’s daily journal.
The journey had a big impact on everyone who took part. One young person recently posted this message on Facebook:
“i just want to say a massive thankyou to u and the rest of the vt team i am honestly a different person from what i was before the trip and ive gained so much confidence aswell and wouldn't have been able to achieve it all or do all the things i did if it wasn't for youse xx”
Celebrating achievements and moving forward
Having completed the heritage journey, the young people have been reflecting on their experiences and progressing a number of ideas. They put together Display Boards charting their experiences and showcasing their findings, which will be available to the general public at the National Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride between May 19th and June 16th 2014. The Boards got their first airing at a Presentation Evening celebrating the young people’s achievements, where they received certificates and showed friends and family what they had created.
Families at the celebration evening
One participant prepared the following speech:
“Before going away on the Venture Trust heritage programme my life and daily routine consisted of me looking after my mum as I am her carer. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go away because of my home situation but the staff reassured me that it would be good for me to get away for a bit and get a wee break, it was really tough for me to leave my mother at home herself and it probarly sounds bad but once I was away I never really thaught of home and never asked to phone my mum either. Being away for that period have really helped me progress as a person and made me realise that I have a life too, I'm special and sometimes it's good to have a wee break from home, the staff were extremely supportive to all of us and were always there to help us carry out different tasks, answer our questions and to help whenever they could! I really enjoyed this heritage trip and would do it 10 times over again if I had the chance, I would highly recommend it to anyone aswell, I came out my comfort zone and achieved so many things not even I could've thaught I could, I would like to say a massive thankyou to each and everyone of the Venture Trust team and staff and to the Heritage Lottery team for making this trip possible.”
Like all Venture Trust programmes, each young person left the expedition with an Action Plan to take their newfound skills and apply them in day-to-day life. The programme has clearly had a profound effect, building significantly on the support that the individuals already receive within the young carer groups. Most impressively, 5 of the young people have already progressed into education and training opportunities. Importantly, they have made these decisions whilst also balancing the care responsibilities in a way that makes sense for their friends and families. Other participants have continued at school and college, armed with additional skills and another great addition to their CVs! All have built their confidence, their motivation and a range of skills vital in so many aspects of life, learning and work. Well done everyone!
Venture Trust remains a pioneer of wilderness-based personal and social development programmes, and this pilot marks another milestone in our quest to offer a range of support to young people and adults in their own journeys of change.
This project would not have been possible without the help of several individuals and organisations. Venture Trust would like to offer up a MASSIVE thank you to the Heritage Lottery Fund (Scotland), West Glasgow Carers’ Centre, South West Glasgow carers’ Centre, National Museums Scotland (particularly staff at the National Museum of Rural Life) and most importantly ALL of the young people who made this project such as success.
Last week Venture Trust's new Fundraiser, Jenny, took on a seven day Inspiring Young Futures wilderness expedition in the Cairngorms. Here's her diary:
Day 1: 'Getting to Know'
The day had arrived for me to head out on expedition with Venture Trust. As a bit of a city girl, mobile phone always close to hand and a big fan of the odd Starbucks or two, I arrived at Stirling train station after an hour’s journey from Edinburgh feeling more than a little nervous. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, I didn't know anyone, and the idea of living in the wilderness for seven days was a daunting one. However, I viewed the expedition as a great opportunity for me to really see Venture Trust in action, and to see how this city girl would cope with the challenge that lay ahead.
I walked towards the Venture Trust bus and was met with smiles, positivity, and some lunch! The field team were so welcoming and made me feel comfortable right from the word go. I stored my bag and sat down ready to meet the participants, who I’m sure were all feeling the same trepidation as myself.
As the participants arrived on the Venture Trust bus, we all introduced ourselves and where we had travelled from. The atmosphere was a combination of excitement and nerves, but after an impromptu game of hacky sack whilst we handed over our valuables (including our mobile phones, which I think we’d all admit, had to be prised from reluctant fingers!), nerves were gradually replaced by anticipation.
Once we’d said goodbye to our valuables for the week, we discussed our social contract, five very simple conditions: no drugs, no alcohol, no theft, no threatening/violent behaviour, and no exclusive/sexual relationships. It was explained that everyone had a part to play in creating a safe environment for learning and development.
After about a four hour drive and a quick change into our outdoor kit, the group arrived at base camp in Carrbridge and set up the tipis which would become home for the next two days. Next, the camp boundaries were discussed: where the group could smoke, the eating area, and the toilets. What I found particularly interesting was that participants weren’t told what to do or where the boundaries were, they were asked; participants' opinions and suggestions were taken into consideration and everything was mutually agreed on between the participants and the field team.
As day light faded the group set off, with head torches firmly attached to foreheads, on a night-walk around base camp following the river. As another way of getting to know each other, we were given the task of thinking of two truths and one lie which we shared with one another and were grilled on in an attempt to expose the fib. There were a number of pretty imaginative lies, some of which included ‘I have had seven near-death experiences’ and ‘I have recently acquired a chainsaw license’ (I actually fell for that one, and was sorely disappointed when it was exposed as a lie!).
Day 2: ‘Plan, Do, Review, Transfer’
After a filling breakfast of porridge and individual support sessions in which participants laid out their goal for the day (and it was explained that they would continue to set a new goal for each day of their wilderness journey), the group began a motivational game of... passing a stick. However, this terrible description makes it sound simple, and it certainly wasn’t. I’ll explain:
The participants were split into two teams and were separated by a rope. They then had to work out how to pass the stick from one team to the other over the separation without stepping over the rope. This was simple at first, participants just had to lean across and hand the stick over, but as the gap got bigger and bigger, participants had to become more and more imaginative. The value of team-work was stressed as participants had to discuss their technique, and the theme of the day immediately came into play: plan the technique, try it, review it, and transfer it. I have never seen two people held horizontally before, and when the stick was successfully passed over a separation wider than I am tall, the group cheered loud enough to be heard in town.
Late morning, the group then headed to Cummingston to take on a climbing and abseiling challenge on the rocky coast. I was really impressed to see one participant in particular overcome a fear of heights as he dangled from a rope and lowered himself to the ground all the while taking deep calming breaths. As his feet reached the ground his chalk-white face burst into a grin as he realised that he’d taken on the challenge and, with the support of the field team and his fellow participants, beaten it!
Once everyone was back on the rocky ground, the group were set the challenge of building a bridge to a wee island just off the coast, again putting the day’s theme of ‘plan, do, review, transfer’ into action. With a combination of team work and enthusiasm the group finished the bridge, had an opening ceremony, and proudly named it ‘The Bad-Ass Bridge’ (and I have to say, it was pretty bad-ass!).
Later that afternoon we headed back to base-camp to cook our very first meal on a Trangia. The process was explained thoroughly and we all set about making a meal themed around a country. Cooking was creative and the combination of Chinese spices, Spanish chorizo, and Indian curries wafted around camp. As someone who has cooked on a Trangia on a number of occasions, I was really surprised to see the plethora of inventive dishes served up- I had no idea one could make such an exciting meal on a stove! My previous Trangia creations had only ever consisted of a rather dull combination of noodles and packet sauces! Not this time though; I managed to rustle up a dish of fajitas with fresh vegetables and wolfed it down feeling rather pleased with myself.
Before bed, we had an evening meeting in which participants were each given their role for the next day. Some of these included campsite manager, time keeper, navigator, motivator, and environmentalist. The participants were briefed on what their role involved and everyone went to sleep with full tummies, thinking about what tomorrow would bring.
Day 3: ‘Dealing with Change’
Today was the day we left the comforts (or what after three nights sleeping in the Highlands, we’d eventually come to realise as comforts) of base camp. Tents were taken down, tipis were packed away, and the challenge that lay ahead began to seem very real.
After individual support sessions and goal setting, participants were asked to choose the food they would take with them- and there was something to suit everyone’s taste (including myself, a slightly particular vegetarian). Participants were encouraged to take filling, hot food that included protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables, the importance of which was explained carefully in terms of energy levels, nutrition, keeping warm, and feeling full. With individual support from the field team, meals were planned and recipes were discussed.
Once our food was packed in our bags, it really did seem like everything was much simpler; our lives were packed tightly into our rucksacks and would now be carried on our backs.
We set out on the Venture Trust bus which drove us to the beginning of our walk through The Gaick Pass. But before we got started, it was time for our very first motivator to lead a group session and our navigator to get to grips with the map and our impending route.
After a few of hours of walking, we eventually came across what would be camp that evening by a huge dam. After dinner, we had an evening meeting chaired and run by a participant in which we talked about our roles and the day's theme. Each participant had something to contribute and there commenced a detailed discussion about dealing with change and how we could each apply this theme back at home.
That evening, bed time came quickly for the group who were all tired after the first walk and a day of change.
Day 4: ‘Choosing Effective Behaviour’
Day four was a big one! We walked through The Gaick pass carrying rucksacks, water, food, and tents. It was a challenge to say the least, but with consistent encouragement from the day’s motivator we got into the swing of it and headed through the stunning scenery of the Cairngorms.
On our way we met a friendly pony who enjoyed the attention of the group (and some participants even had a carrot or two for him). We saw hares, frogs, frog spawn, and deer tracks. All the while we were kept on time by the day’s time keeper and we made sure to pick up our litter as directed by the environmentalist.
Mid-way through our walk we came across a river, flowing rapidly, and deeper than we first thought. As a group we discussed the best way to cross, whether that was by building ‘Bad-Ass Bridge take-two’, wading, or continuing further along the bank to see if we could find a shallower part. We agreed that the best way to cross was to pull up our trousers, grit our teeth to the cold water, and wade!
Everyone got across first time, except one participant who wasn’t a fan of the idea of wet feet or a particularly strong current. As he became more and more nervous about crossing the river, the field team were on hand to offer him support. Together with the field team, the participant chose effective behaviour and came to a compromise... he would wade if he could tie bin liners around his boots. The group were quick to offer up their bin liners in a show of encouragement and as the participant crossed the river there were whoops and cheers.
He did later admit that he still got wet feet despite the bin liners, but was proud that he’d chosen effective behaviour; rather than simply refusing to cross the river, he thought his options through carefully and offered up a compromise that satisfied himself, the field team, and his fellow participants.
The group neared a possible camp-site but were given the option to keep going to see if they could find a better one. Despite wet feet, the group decided to keep going! We ended up camping at the side of Loch an t-Seilich which was a spectacular setting for the end of day four.
After some stone skimming on the loch (I could never manage more than three bounces!) we cooked dinner together and rounded up the day with an evening review led and chaired by a participant in which we discussed the day’s theme and how we’d each put it into practise. We re-distributed roles and then headed straight to bed. I was asleep as soon as my head hit my make-shift pillow of a rolled up (increasingly dirty) fleece.
Day 5: ‘Trust and Responsibilty’
The day began with a motivational game of ‘Zap’, well at least I think that’s what it’s called. Regardless of name it got the group laughing and ready to begin the day. Today’s theme was introduced in the morning meeting, run by a participant, as ‘Trust and Responsibility’. Once we’d discussed what the theme entailed, participants went into their individual support sessions to choose a goal for the day.
Today the participants were trusted to take responsibility and walk alone. The field team held back after lunch allowing the participants to navigate, pick up litter, and keep an eye on their time without the support or prompting of the staff. The participants rose to the challenge and arrived at camp ahead of schedule without getting lost (and with only one cigarette break!). As soon as they had arrived, the camp manager immediately set about making sure everyone knew the camp boundaries, where the toilets were, where the fuel dump was
(a safe area where Trangia fuel was kept), and where tents would be pitched. By the time the field team had caught up, the group was already well on their way to having an organised camp site.
That evening the support session revolved around five key behaviours: Survival, Love and Belonging, Self- Worth, Fun, and Freedom. Each participant gave an example of each of the five behaviours that was applicable to their own lives. After a short break- more hacky-sack (it’s really quite addictive!) and a surprise visit from a Common Lizard- the group gathered together once again to create their own ‘Quality World’. This involved applying the five key behaviours to their own life and beginning to think about what they would like to include in their Action Plan to take home and put into practise.
Day 6: 'Action Plans'
Once the participants packed up camp and had their individual support session, they each set off on a solo walk. They were encouraged to use this alone time to really reflect on their home lives, their 'Quality World', and begin to plan their Action Plans which they would write with the support of their individual support worker later that day back at base camp.
I was lucky enough to be involved in the Action Plans and could really see the enthusiasm and eagerness of the participants as they planned what they wanted to change at home and how they would go about sustaining this change. The general consensus was that if they can take on this challenge and succeed, they can take on anything back at home (and I whole-heartedly agree)! Once they're home, these Action Plans will be presented to each participant's Venture Trust Outreach Worker who will continue to support them as they put their plans into motion.
Once the Action Plans were written, discussed thoroughly, and agreed upon between participant and support worker, it was time for a celebration barbecue! Steaming hot burgers, roasted peppers, and sausages were served straight from the grill with a side of salad whilst participants congratulated each other and talked positively about home. Once we had eaten 'till we were about to burst at the seam, the group headed down to the Venture Trust bus to watch a slideshow of the week.
It's difficult to describe the atmosphere on the bus that evening... there was an overwhelming sense of pride, excitement about what's to come, but also a twinge of sadness that an amazing week was drawing to an end. Each of the participants were presented with a well-earned certificate along with personalised words of encouragement and feedback from the field team. After hand-shakes, hugs, and congratulations we headed back to camp for one last night's sleep in the wilderness that had become our home and the backdrop of each person's individual achievements.
Day 7: ‘Positive Ending’
We did it! And now our journey together has come to an end. We had tackled a number of physical and emotional challenges, beaten them, and the sense of achievement was electric.
Not only have I learned that actually, I’m not as much of a city girl as I first thought and I can actually survive without my mobile phone and my Starbucks, I now have seen Venture Trust's wilderness journey in action.
More importantly I now understand that putting up a tent is not just about putting up a tent, it's about team-work, efficiency, and organisation. Navigation is not just about navigation, it's about having the confidence to speak in front of a group and the trust that is involved in allowing someone to show you where you're going. Running a morning meeting is not just about running a morning meeting, it's about being brave enough to ask people questions and make your voice heard. And finally, a wilderness-journey is not just about a wilderness-journey, it's about having the perseverance and courage to complete a challenge that was once a daunting prospect, and then take that courage home and apply it where it really matters.
I was sad to say goodbye to the participants but at the same time excited for what’s to come! Armed with a tool belt full of new valuable life skills, I have every faith that every one of them will go on to success and achieve new and wonderful things.
Thank you to each and every person who was a part of my wilderness journey. You’re all unique people with so much to offer. Good luck for the future; you’ll all be amazing at whatever you set out to achieve!
Day 8: The Beginning
Back in the office today, clean, rested, and smelling much better than yesterday! Everyone at head office is excited to hear about my journey, and I’m excited to tell them! As I finish writing my wilderness journey diary I feel an overwhelming pride to be part of such a fantastic life-changing charity and, although I still have a runny nose, I will take away some amazing life-long memories of my own personal wilderness journey.
Venture Trust is a chance for change which each and every one of the participants grabbed with both hands; now it's time for me to do them proud and continue to tell their story along with all the other participants past and present.
Although our time together has come to a end, this isn't the finish for the participants on the Inspiring Young Futures (IYF1401) journey, or for me. It really is just the beginning... and what a bad-ass beginning it is!
Working together, we are offering individuals the opportunity to overcome obstacles in their lives and accelerate towards more positive futures. We’re helping people on their personal development journey, getting their lives back on the rails, and not falling into the trap of making obvious puns in any way shape or form.
In 2013 Network Rail granted funding to support Venture Trust’s work with people who feel their lives have hit the buffers – involved in offending, facing drug/alcohol issues, struggling with unemployment or feeling isolated. Network Rail recognised that Venture Trust could engage individuals with whom many other agencies couldn’t or wouldn’t work. But most importantly, Network Rail also shared an ethos with Venture Trust; that many individuals have the capacity to change, and, with the right support, can flourish and make valuable contributions to their communities. Engineering change if you will...
The starting point, as with all Venture Trust programmes, is providing intensive support to help individuals develop the confidence, the motivation, the aspiration and the core lifeskills they need to make change possible. Time, space and carefully designed support in wilderness environments away from day-to-day pressures helps participants recognise and unlock skills that many of us take for granted. Recognising the “triggers” that wind us up and how to avoid them; communicating effectively with other people and building positive relationships; how to set goals and stick with them. Most importantly, the wilderness of Scotland demands and reveals self-reliance, helps people celebrate their personal achievements often for the first time in their lives, and builds a sense of self-worth and purpose.
And did you know, most participants take the train to the starting point of their journeys from as far afield as Exeter, Wick, London and Ipswich? Sometimes it’s the first time they’ve taken a train, and as the train heads towards Scotland’s amazing mountains, rivers and coastlines, individuals start to reflect on their lives at home, what’s working and what’s not, and so the journey of change is already beginning.
Whilst funding for Venture Trust’s world leading personal development programmes forms a vital component, the partnership with Network Rail also goes well beyond that. We want to offer people employability opportunities, in a sector which is growing with major infrastructure projects across Scotland and the rest of the UK. And we want to help Network Rail in their mission to keep people and the railway safe. So in case there are any engineering jobs going, we’ve done a blueprint for success!
Over the next few months, we’ll aim to keep you updated about this partnership and its successes.
We’ll surprise you with some facts and figures about rail safety.
We’ll show you photos of the work that Network Rail’s money is supporting in Scotland’s wonderful wilderness.
We’ll share incredible stories of lives transformed.
And we’ll stop all this punning, which is frankly de-railing a perfectly good article!
We're delighted that Coastal Communities funding - announced today - has granted £144,862 to Venture Trust to enable us to market and develop adventure tourism in Applecross.
Applecross has been home to Venture Trust's wilderness provision for many years, and this announcement marks the next phase in our presence at Applecross. Thanks to this funding, we will be able to market and develop our adventure tourism provision, where we’ll run a range of wilderness adventure activities and holidays, simultaneously creating jobs and supporting the local economy, and providing internship and employment opportunities for our participants and local people.
The funding will directly create 2.5 full time equivalent jobs, safeguard existing local jobs at the hostel and create 8 vocational trainee roles for those without experience of employment. Our project is intended to attract new visitors to Hartfield House, our affiliate youth hostel, and operate as a base for delivering adventurous activities, holidays and experiences in Applecross and other wilderness areas across the Highlands.
The Coastal Communities Fund (CCF) aims to encourage the economic development of UK coastal communities by awarding funding to create sustainable economic growth and jobs. With its outstanding natural wilderness environment, Applecross is ideally placed to develop adventure tourism. Tourism is a key element of the local employment scene, but seasonality is an issue reflected in rising unemployment in the winter. This project is designed to develop adventure tourism and extend the hostel usage throughout the year thereby developing new tourism markets and tackling the seasonality issue.
The project will leave a legacy of sustainable economic activity in the Applecross area; activity which is socially advantageous, environmentally responsible and ethically grounded. This investment will generate a robust social enterprise local employer, maximising usage of the hostel facilities as well as developing adventure tourism in Applecross.
By developing Venture Trust's social enterprise arm, the project is contributing to the local community and economy and in turn the long term sustainability of our charitable work, and supporting our ability to deliver personal and social development programmes to those who need it most.
Many thanks to Coastal Communities for this fantastic opportunity for Applecross and Venture Trust.
On the 5th February 2014, participants on the Inspiring Young Futures programme headed out to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
The participants were challenged right from the word go. They met for the first time at Stirling train station, jumped on the Venture Trust bus, changed into their outdoor gear, and... abseiled into their camp! The Trossachs National Park might have been cold, but the participants were ready for anything.
Each of the four days of the Inspiring Young Futures programme was shaped around a personal development theme. Day one was getting to know the other participants and setting up camp (including erecting a tipi which would be home for the duration of the wilderness journey). Day two was geared around teaching the 'Plan Do Review Transfer' strategy. Day three was expedition day, with a 'Choosing Effective Behaviour' theme. Lastly, day four's theme was 'Transfer', focussing on applying new skills to home environments.
Each theme was carefully chosen to help participants develop life skills. These skills are not only used whilst on their wilderness journey but participants are encouraged to apply them once they're back at home in their own community, thawing out. Participants took part in a number of emotionally and physically challenging personal development activities such as navigation, night abseiling (and when I say night, I mean in the pitch black of night!), and leading the morning meeting. Each of these personal development activities highlights a number of lifeskills, for example, navigation teaches the importance of planning ahead, morning meetings develop leadership skills, abseiling highlights the importance of supporting one another.
Once the participants had successfully completed their wilderness journey they headed into Aberfoyle for a well deserved celebration breakfast of bacon and egg rolls and a steaming cup of tea. Over breakfast they watched a slide show of the week which, by all accounts, made everyone laugh quite raucously. Each participant received personal feedback from the expedition team, set their goals for the future, and were presented with certificates for the course. The participants agreed that they had each built their confidence throughout the week, made life-long friends, and had a bucket load of fun to boot.
Having been lucky enough to meet one of the participants who took part, I asked what her top tip was for someone about to go on a wilderness journey, to which she candidly suggested...
" Tell them, just never give up. Whatever they do, just never give up."