Participant stories

  • | News | Participant stories

    VT welcomes Malawi Fellows to Scotland

    We are delighted to welcome five guests from our Moving On: Malawi programme to Scotland. As part of the programme's handover to local partners, our five visitors are spending two months with Venture Trust in Scotland thanks to the Commonwealth Fellowship Scheme.

    Here, we introduce our five Fellows. Read on for an introduction from Greg, our Project Officer in Malawi, and for each Fellow's own hopes and aspirations for their time in Scotland.

    Samuel Mbweza (State Prosecutor)

    From Greg:Sam was our first Malawian contact back in 2010 when Joe Connelly (our Head of Programmes) met him at the Ministry of Justice. Joe and Sam visited Kachere Juvenile Prison together and although Sam’s job is as a prosecutor for the State, he had never set foot inside a prison and especially a juvenile one. What Sam saw shocked him and has given him a professional drive to use incarceration as a last resort and in his job “to ensure that justice is just even for those vulnerable young people who cannot afford it”.

    From Samuel: As a State Prosecutor working in the Ministry of Justice under the Director of Public Prosecutions my job is to represent the government in courts. The Constitution of Malawi empowers the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute all cases in Malawi that make us to handle every case that is brought to the directorate. In Scotland, I look forward to learn, learn, and learn. The experience I will gain I will first impart it to my colleagues in my office and also other organizations that deal with children in conflict with the law. I wish to see Mwai wosinthika becoming a hope for all the hopeless and helpless children in Malawi, a place where children would launch their dreams and see them come to pass and become responsible and productive citizens not only for Malawi but the entire world.

    Fanny L Mwale (Police Officer)

    From Greg:Fanny has been a great help to Venture Trust in her tireless commitment and passion for young people both in her work and in her own community in Area 24 of Lilongwe. As well as a very busy dayjob, as a “Agogo” (Grandmother) she has a very busy homelife after hours.

    From Fanny:
    My goal is to become the best child prosecutor, divert as many child cases as possible, and reduce numbers of children in conflict with the law in Malawi. In Scotland, I want to experience how children in conflict with the law are assisted, and how reform is conducted.

    Yotamu Yotsie Chaonaine (Police Officer)

    From Greg: I first saw Chaonaine (Chewa for “He has been seen”) or Chao as we call him now, on the road to the prison .The police patrol vehicle he was driving very fast was packed full of prisoners I waved at him to slow down. Later he explained that he had to drive fast so they would not escape. It was the start of a really good working relationship and he assisted us to move many young boys from imprisonment.

    From Chao: It is my wish of becoming a responsible leader both at my workplace as well as in my society. I hope to achieve this through the knowledge gained from different spheres, as it is said “knowledge is power”. I hope to return to Malawi filled with knowledge ready to disseminate to my colleagues through sensitisation meetings and submission of reports. I want to be planning on where, when, how to start a “mwai wosinthika” (a chance for change”) programme, and I will be filled with joy to have travelled by aeroplane out of Malawi for the first time in my life and to have seen Scotland a place where most of my ancestors have never been courtesy of Venture Trust, Scottish Government and the Commonwealth Professional fellowship.

    Chosadziwa Sakwiya a.k.a Chosa (Child Protection Officer and Social Worker)

    From Greg: I first met Sakwiya (chewa meaning “he is not angry”) at the District social Welfare Office inputting data. I must say he did not look overly happy about it! However once he joined our “mwai wosinthika” (a chance for change) programme and became a facilitator it was clear he had a real passion and drive for working with young people “at risk“. He has worked voluntarily alongside Venture Trust for nearly two years as well as doing his own 24/7 job as managing the Social Transit Centre for children “in or on the streets” of Lilongwe.

    From Chosa: My job here , is so delicate in the sense that l work with children and young men ensuring their emotional and physical wellbeing thus enabling them to trust me hence being able to protect them from any form of abuse that may hinder their developmental growth to become useful citizens of Malawi. During my stay [in Scotland] l will be looking forward most in the sharing of skills, culture and the experience in technology as compared to my home country friendship development, and that hospitality that will not make me regret why l left the “warm heart of Africa” (Malawi) and of course learning the Scottish sense of humour ;-)

    Kenneth Thom (Prison Warder/HIV & AIDS Counsellor)

    From Greg: Thom was the first warder at Kachere Prison to demonstrate a real desire to work with the young people there. Unlike many of his colleagues at the time he was not afraid to be open to change. Working with Venture Trust within Kachere has been a huge personal challenge for Thom, in terms of conflict amongst his previous colleagues. However, there is about to be a new management at Kachere Reformatory Centre with the a new Officer in Charge and her young and freshly trained staff from the training College - Thom will surely return with new inspiration to make a real change and his knowledge will fall on fertile ground!

    From Kenneth: I come to work with Greg at Kachere in 2011. When Venture Trust come to work at Kachere my responsibilities, translation ability and openness to learn suited the criteria of Venture Trust. I helped Greg in translation during “one-to-one” interviews with young offenders. I now conduct these interviews finding out about their education, accommodation, health HIV and AIDS and relationship with their parents or guardians and also help them to make their plans and doing Venture trust session in prison emphasising behaviour change. My trip to Scotland will have a huge impact on my day to day work as I will acquire new knowledge and skills that will help me to effectively assist the Malawi Prison service, and I will interact with other fellows from other countries sharing experiences. I want to visit Polmont Young Offenders Institute in Glasgow which is the equivalent to Kachere in Malawi and maybe set up a relationship.

    We look forward to keeping you updated about our Fellows' time and adventures in Scotland.

  • | Films | Participant stories

    A glimpse inside our work in Malawi

    Our friends and colleagues in Malawi - Eithne Lynch and Ruth Dowling - accept the Irish Law Awards 2013 honour for their human rights work with Irish Rule of Law International in Lilongwe, Malawi.

    This short film features footage from Kachere Reformatory Centre, home of Venture Trust's Moving On - Malawi programme. Some of those featured in the film will be travelling to Scotland later this year to spend time with Venture Trust, as part of our handover of the programme to local partners.

    Documentary by film maker Mr Patrick Garety.

  • | News | Participant stories

    Living Wild... Africa!

    "Mwai wosinithika…a chance for change”

    Venture Trust began its international work in 2010 specifically working on a project in Kachere Juvenile Prison in Lilongwe, Malawi in Southern Africa. We did so at the request of the Scottish & Malawi Governments, who recognized that Venture Trust’s distinct approach to supporting young people in need of ‘a chance for change’ offered something of real importance to the evolving criminal justice sector in Malawi.

    Many people in our organisation at that time wondered what the relevance of working in a prison in some country in the middle of Africa, that many could not place a pin on the map! It was a reasonable question to ask.

    At that time Venture Trust was an organization that worked with vulnerable people only in the UK, predominantly in Scotland and not across all local authorities. (When I started with Venture Trust we had only one main programme called “a chance for change” which focused on young peopleon probation (aged 16-24) and was based in Applecross with less than 10 staff.) Now Venture Trust works with many more local authorities in Scotland and supports a far greater range of people.

    The blog from Malawi and more recently our facebook page has hopefully kept you up to date with how the project “mwai wosinthika”…or … “a chance for change” (in the national chewa language) has evolved and changed in Malawi. From specifically working within the walls of Kachere Juvenile Prison with one permanent member of staff in 2010-11, we recruited Tom Sanderson from his prison background in the UK.

    As we built partnerships with a range of Malawian agencies (including the police, social welfare, courts and traditional authorities) we were asked to extend our outreach work into the communities in and around Lilongwe (Malawi’s capital). Perhaps as importantly it enabled Venture Trust to further develop the programme, offering a far stronger ‘change for change’ through using the catalyst of a “wilderness” journey, albeit it in a significantly different (and somewhat hotter) environment than in Scotland!

    Many people back in Scotland probably wonder if the programme looks anything like those that Venture Trust offers young people in the UK. Well, apart from the heat and the language many of you would recognize the “syllabus” which has three phases,is centred on a willingness to change and helps individuals unlock the skills and competencies to achieve this. It starts with heavy support, and retains a constant focus upon transferring new skills back into day-to-day life. Our outreach workers (jointly with Malawian social workers and a small number of Malawian volunteers) continue to offer support to participants as necessary back in Lilongwe after their wilderness experience.

    Living Wild: “Dziko labwino”…space to think about your world

    The wilderness journey has now been offered to over a hundred vulnerable young Malawians in 2012-2013 either from Kachere or at risk of been sent there from within the Lilongwe area.

    A willingness to change is perhaps the only thing that we ask of our clients (and ourselves) whether they are Scottish, from elsewhere in the UK, or African.

    The 18th July 2013 will mark another “first” for Venture Trust as an organization as we have succeeded in being accepted as a nominating organization with the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship Scheme. This offers five Malawians with whom we have been closely working over the last three years “an opportunity of a lifetime” (their words not mine) to come to Scotland and see and share our work,compare experiences and deepen the skills they need to sustain ‘Mwai Wosinthika’ in Malawi’s criminal justice sector long after Venture Trust staff have left. They represent the main sectors we have been working with in Malawi; The Malawi Prison Service, The Malawi Police Service, The Social Welfare (Ministry of Gender, Children and Community Development) and the Courts (Ministry of Justice).

    More will follow on this nearer the time with biographies and a work exchange plan over July August and September. We are sure you will welcome our colleagues from Malawi and give them a “warm welcome” from the significantly colder heart of Scotland. (Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa).

    A community reaching their goals.

    Our work in Africa with no prior experience as an organization has shown that Venture Trust is itself flexible and willing to change (not to mention highly effective!). This is something we must continue to be if we are to be true to our clients and colleagues.

    Zikomo kwamberi

    Greg Watson

    Venture Trust Malawi

    Reach for your goals

  • | News | Participant stories

    Be exactly who you want to be, do what you want to do

    A short verse that a few of our participants may recognise from their time on exped, but one that will doubtless resonate with many more of those we've supported:

    Be exactly who you want to be, do what you want to do
    I am he and she is she but you're the only you
    No one else has got your eyes, can see the things you see
    It's up to you to change your life and my life's up to me.

    The problems that you suffer from are problems that you make
    The shit we have to climb through is the shit we choose to take
    If you don't like the life you live, change it now - it's yours
    Nothing has effects if you don't recognise the cause.

    If the programme's not the one you want, get up, turn off the set
    It's only you that can decide what life you're gonna get

    I am he and she is she but you're the only you.

  • | Participant stories

    In their own words

    Ever wondered if your support for Venture Trust really makes a difference? If it really does change lives? Well, we're handing over to our participants, who we think make the point rather nicely...


    When I was a teenager, I think that’s when my troubles began. I was living in children’s units. People think that kids in the care system will never make anything of themselves – they think they must be bad people. I

    was in a complete dilemma – you had your own problems and other people had their problems too. I just thought aggression and drugs was normal – you don’t have anyone to turn to and you don’t see your family much. I was taking drugs, self harming.... all kinds of things. No-one helped me.

    I’ve been working with Venture Trust in Edinburgh – a charity that helps people like me learn new skills and think about what they want out of life. I got lots of one-to-one support, and spent all my time outdoors. I climbed, went wild camping, canoed, kayaked, and went on expeditions for weeks at a time. I was enjoying what I was doing and starting to achieve something with my life. People were noticing what I was doing well; I could do something positive and get noticed for it, where in the past I’d have to get into trouble to get noticed. I started to change; I realised there was more to life than taking drugs, and that I could use my experiences to help other people.

    I realised how happy I was. I realised I show my experience to other people and help them to change their lives like I changed mine. I can give other people support and help them to make a difference. I’ve done it all – I think I’ve done more in 17 years than most people have in a lifetime – and I can say to people ‘you don’t need to do that’. Most people who get through the care system end up taking drugs or going to prison. If I can show people the other options, the other route they can take, then they can choose to take that path too.

    Feeling inspired by Vicky's story? Find out how your support made it happen...


    [At first] I was very closed off and kind of kept to myself, simply because that’s what I was like back then! As the days went on, I got to know the participants and staff more which I was enjoying as everyone had different backgrounds to me. I realised on that trip that it was more than just doing activities and playing games, it was also a way of getting to know myself a little better.

    I found out that I had bottled a lot of stuff up over the years and that I had a pretty negative outlook on life. Once the staff picked up on this, they were so supportive and really took the time to talk and get to know me, which I eventually really appreciated.

    The trip as a whole was such a challenge but nothing I couldn’t handle (I didn’t know this at the time though). We done so many activities and team building games which really helped me get along with my peers. During the trip we had support groups and this was the hard part for me. It involved setting personal goals and weekly goals, which I had to try and achieve as the days went by.

    Overall it was a fantastic experience, one I’ll never forget and since doing it I’m a brand new person. I couldn’t thank the staff enough for putting up with me and cracking through that big wall I had up. They got me to open up and speak about things I’d been hiding for many years. The feedback sheets I got from the trip I still read to this day because whenever I’m feeling down or being a bit harsh with myself, those sheets never fail to cheer me up. They prove I am a strong person and I am able to overcome any kind of obstacles that might come my way. Since then I am much more positive not only with myself but with my outlook as well. I help out a lot more at home and I have gained lots more confidence... this won’t be the last you see of me!

    Feeling inspired by Michelle's story? Find out how your support made it happen...


    My life’s changed dramatically, everything’s changed! Every little part of my life has changed, for the good. Because before, it was just lazy – drugs, that was it. Arguing with everyone, not doing anything. But now it’s off the drugs, getting a job, going to college, baby on the way – it’s all positives.

    I learnt to calm down. I learnt that if I’m feeling a bit pissed off, or angry, or a bit down, to go and talk to people, cos people might not know how I’m feeling. [The course] has affected me in a lot of ways. It’s helped me get more motivated, communication. Getting along with others. Understanding that people have got their own problems as well, and when I’ve got my problems, I should work through them, not just bypass them. So the course has helped me a lot.

    My action plan was really good, cos it helped me actually do stuff, instead of sitting doing nothing. And it kept me away from the trouble. I just took it step by step, one by one. I just planned it – ‘do that one, then that one’.

    Now, if I see people out, like, arguing and fighting, I can approach it much easier than I did before. Before, it’d be nerve wracking, thinking ‘what’s going to happen’, but after the course, it’s easier to calm people down, talk to people more, helping them, figuring out what’s bothering them, and chilling out a lot quicker and easier.

    I’ve got a job interview, next week, it’s for the cadets. I’m starting college at the end of the month, to do Computing Support, my girlfriend’s pregnant, we’ve got a baby on the way – we’re going to find out if it’s a boy or a girl next week. I’ve got a steady relationship, I’m off the drugs, don’t drink at all. Family life is a lot more mellow and chilled out, everything’s just running a lot smoother now. I feel brilliant, great. My ambitions are to settle down, with a proper family and my own house. That’d be a perfect start to a good future. A good job – even if that means going to lots of interviews still – I want a good job, a steady job, not a dead end job. A job I can progress in. Finish college, get good grades, healthy baby, a steady relationship – the perfect life.

    Venture Trust helped me with my communication – understanding that people’ve got their own problems, and helping them with their problems. Motivating others; when they’re feeling down, helping them get back on their feet. Keeping everyone looking at the positives, rather than the negatives, keeping everyone on their own path, going positive places.

    [If I hadn’t gone on the Venture Trust programme] I’d be totally opposite. I wouldn’t be at college, I wouldn’t have a job interview, I wouldn’t have a girlfriend, I wouldn’t have a baby on the way, I’d still be on the drugs, I’d have no money, I’d still be arguing with my mum, I’d probably be kicked out...

    Feeling inspired by Gordon's story? Find out how your support made it happen...

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