Participant stories

  • | News | Participant stories

    From a life of despair to a promising future with the help of Venture Trust

    Before embarking on a Venture Trust course, life for Kirsten Calcott was very unhappy. She had been living at a homeless unit in Fife, and various hostels, since the age of 16 but struggled to cope with managing her emotions due to mental health issues. She had been through the system, tried all sorts of organisations to gain some support but nothing seemed to work.

    Kirsten had a daughter in 2012 but her mental health issues continued to dog her. She suffered a mental breakdown in 2014, which led to Kirsten’s daughter being put into foster care.

    Things seemed to be turning a corner when Kirsten met her partner whilst on a horticulture course. They moved in together, and Kirsten graduated with merit. In February 2015 Kirsten’s partner died unexpectedly. This left her angry and again unable to cope. She received support from Shelter, who helped her to address her housing situation, and to make tentative steps towards further education. Her contact at Shelter put her in touch with Venture Trust and suggested that enrolling on a Venture Trust programme may help with gaining some control of her life.

    Kirsten has not looked back. In July 2015, at the age of 25, she signed up to the Venture Trust Transitions to Independent Living programme, which is designed for those living in temporary supported accommodation, unstable tenancies or considered at risk of homelessness. Currently funded by the Scottish Government and Dulverton Trust, the programme helps participants to develop their confidence, relationships, employability and other skills necessary to secure and sustain permanent accommodation.

    Kirsten comments, “I didn’t think Venture Trust would really be able to help. I’d been through many systems and been to too many groups. I thought it was just going to be the same as the rest. But it wasn’t. Venture Trust pushed me to my limits and showed me what I was capable of. It changed me. It helped so much to get away; that was the best thing; being given a chance to think.”

    She continues, “I’ve still got problems, but I can deal with them now. Venture Trust gave me coping mechanisms to manage my problems when I got back home. The activities really enabled me to see that there was another way to deal with things. The Red Flag activity has been so good for me. I used to get really angry, but now when I get annoyed, I just see the staff running around on the beach and it makes me giggle.”

    Since completing the Venture Trust programme, Kirsten has received one-to-one support from her outreach worker with the aim of achieving some of her goals. She now has a part time job, has just finished college, achieving high grades in the sciences. She has also been accepted at university to study psychology and forensic biology, which starts in August.

    Kirsten explains: “I live in student accommodation now, but once I start at university I am hoping to get my own flat. I’m even contemplating swimming lessons and I am really scared of water! Two weeks ago, I walked the East Highland Way with some friends. It took five days and we went through Newtonmore which is where I went canoeing with Venture Trust. I was telling my friends all about it and how I was determined I wasn’t getting in the boat, but I did. I didn’t think I would. But I did it!

    I am making efforts to go out with my friends, which is something I hadn’t done for a long while; I am finding this a really positive thing as I am more balanced knowing that I have the support of friends. And I am now off my medication for depression; my plan was to cut down, but I’m off it completely. I am looking forward to becoming a Venture Trust mentor, supporting other people who are struggling to see a way ahead.”

    For further information about Venture Trust’s Transitions to Independent Living programme, please visit: http://www.venturetrust.org.uk/programmes/transitions-independent-living/

    ENDS

  • | News | Participant stories

    Battling the realities behind long term youth unemployment

    The article below first appeared in The Scotsman:

    Venture Trust, the charity that supports disadvantaged young people to make positive changes in their lives, is getting to the route of the issues behind the significant number of long term unemployed youth in Scotland. The charity has joined forces with Who Cares? Scotland, and Move On to develop the employability programme, Reaching Higher.

    Amelia Morgan, Chief Executive of Venture Trust explains, “Unemployment figures have dropped significantly over the last few years and this is encouraging. But 11,000 young adults in Scotland have been out of work for more than a year. This is down to a number of factors which need to be addressed.”

    She continues, “Most worrying is that many of these young adults hail from life circumstances where they are not given the best start. There is often a lack of opportunities or support to gain the necessary life skills, motivation or confidence to embark on further education or training. This leads to a cycle of disengagement with the system, and no way of acquiring the skills required to gain employment.”

    Amelia explains, “The complexity of range of barriers facing some young people to enter employment, education or training can require significant investment in an individual achieving greater stability – addressing chaotic or destructive behaviours to become ready for employment such that they can sustain a job. These young people represent potential and untapped talent when supported and nurtured. Without this, long term unemployment can often lead to a feeling of hopelessness, depression, financial worries, homelessness, addiction, and trouble with the criminal justice system. At the other end of the scale, being given the opportunity to train, volunteer, gain work experience, and get work-ready can be life changing in a positive way.

    The Reaching Higher programme is designed to help care experienced, unemployed young people between 16 and 29 to gain skills, and work experience, and, with support, to gain sustainable employment.

    Reaching Higher offers a vital extension to the work that Venture Trust already undertakes in its Inspiring Young Futures personal development programme. The programme supports disengaged young people, to gain the skills needed to achieve their goals, grow in confidence and stability. The Reaching Higher programme will take those individuals who have reached a point where they are ready to get into employment, and give them the opportunity to shine.”

    “Nicole B is one of the first participants to have been enrolled on the Reaching Higher programme. She is 19 years old but has had a turbulent past, with lack of support leading to homelessness, subsequent unhealthy relationships, unemployment and substance abuse,” adds Amelia. “Her life was in turmoil and she was living with a friend when the opportunity came for the Reaching Higher programme. She started a four week ‘pre-employability’ course in October 2015, and was then chosen to start a one-year traineeship with Who Cares? Scotland, as an Events & Membership Admin Assistant.

    Nicole’s life has since turned around; she has a sustainable home, a purpose, and has set goals that she wants to achieve. Not only that, she has gained a great deal of confidence and her life is much more balanced; and there is hope.”

    Nicole comments, “Venture Trust changed me as a person. I used to be rebellious and now I want to knuckle down and do something really positive with my life. The Reaching Higher programme has given me a lot of support and skills that I never knew I had. It has allowed me to think about my dreams; before I would never have aspired to go to university and now I know I will!”

    For further details of the Reaching Higher programme, click here.

  • | News | Participant stories

    First participants experience life changing effects of Venture Trust’s Reaching Higher Programme

    Venture Trust, the charity that supports young disadvantaged people to make positive changes in their lives, has joined forces with Who Cares? Scotland, and Move On to develop the employability programme, Reaching Higher.

    The programme, funded through the Queen’s Young Leaders Grant scheme administered by Comic Relief, is designed to help care experienced, unemployed young people between 16 and 29 to gain skills, and work experience, and, with support, to enter sustained employment.

    Reaching Higher offers a vital extension to the work that Venture Trust already undertakes in its Inspiring Young Futures personal development programme. Inspiring Young Futures, funded primarily by The Big Lottery Fund, Inspiring Scotland and a number of UK trusts and foundations, supports disengaged young people, to gain the skills needed to achieve their goals, grow in confidence and stability. The Reaching Higher programme will take those individuals who have reached a point where they are ready to get into employment, and give them the opportunity to shine.

    Nicole Blain is one of the first participants to have been enrolled on the Reaching Higher programme, following her involvement with Venture Trust’s Inspiring Young Futures programme. Nicole is 19 years old but has had a turbulent past, with lack of support leading to homelessness, subsequent unhealthy relationships, unemployment and substance abuse. Her life was in turmoil and she was living with a friend when the opportunity came for the Reaching Higher programme. She started a four week ‘pre-employability’ course in October 2015, and was then chosen to start a one-year traineeship with Who Cares? Scotland, as an Events & Membership Admin Assistant.

    Andy Hardie, Senior Development Worker at Venture Trust, commented, “During the course of the Reaching Higher pre-employability training, the change in Nicole was amazing. At the start of the four week course she was quite shy. She was anxious and somewhat distant during the first couple of days, but nearing the end of the first week Nicole became more at ease within the group and also with the facilitators. She bonded really well with her peers, becoming more of a leader within the group especially during the teambuilding activities.”

    He continues, “Nicole opened up to me regarding her anxiety and how it had the potential to hold her back in achieving her goals. In doing this, she grew more confident, and spoke openly and honestly when talking about personal events. Nicole was a pleasure to work with and has masses of potential. I believe that when she puts her mind to do something she will achieve it.”

    Now in her role at Who Cares? Scotland, Nicole’s life has turned around; she has a sustainable home, a purpose, and has set goals that she wants to achieve. Not only that, she has gained a great deal of confidence and her life is much more balanced; and there is hope.

    Nicole comments, “Venture Trust changed me as a person. I used to be rebellious and now I want to knuckle down and do something really positive with my life. The Reaching Higher programme has given me a lot of support and skills that I never knew I had. It has allowed me to think about my dreams; before I would never have aspired to go to university and now I know I will!”

    For further details of the Venture Trust’s Reaching Higher programme, click here.

  • | News | Participant stories

    Walking in a winter wonderland

    Transitions to Independent Living

    Wilderness journey: December 2015

    The weather on our latest wilderness expedition added a festive theme to the journey and provided participants with some additional challenges…

    The participants were taking part in Venture Trust’s Transitions to Independent Living programme, which is designed for those living in temporary supported accommodation, unstable tenancies or considered at risk of homelessness. The course helps participants to develop their confidence, relationships, employability and other skills necessary to secure and sustain permanent accommodation.

    Six of the participants came from the slightly warmer climes of London and the surrounding area, and arrived with energy and excitement, despite delays on their 6-hour train journey. On arrival, they met the other participants at our Stirling base who came from Aberdeen and the group soon bonded during a meal - fish and chips in Pitlochry.

    At Kinloch Rannoch Outdoor Centre the group created a great buzz and supportive culture. There was a positive energy as many of the participants stepped out of their comfort zones to challenge themselves, taking part in activities including climbing and abseiling.

    The group set out from the centre ready for their expedition with the weather dry but cold. It wasn't long before the weather started to deteriorate but they were able to set up camp, cook dinner on their Trangia stoves and settle in for the night under canvas in the Scottish wilderness.

    When they awoke and peered out of their tents the group faced a different type of challenge - heavy snow. Some of the participants described it as a "winter wonderland" or something from Disney's 'Frozen', however, on assessment, the Venture Trust team decided the challenges presented by the snow were too great so the decision was made to retreat back to the outdoor centre.

    The change in plans provided an unexpected real-life scenario on which to demonstrate one of the cornerstones of Venture Trust's approach - Choice Theory/Reality Therapy. This framework helps participants to distinguish between what they can and cannot control, and to try to control only the controllable. Everyone dealt well with the change to the expedition and with the snow remaining constant over the next few days it certainly proved to be the right decision.

    At the centre, the group continued to enjoy the experience and challenges of communal living. Being snowed in, alternative group activities were arranged and these included a Come Dine with Me competition which turned out to be very competitive - with some honest feedback and scoring. The group also got back outside to go on a forestry walk with lots of learning around the theme of 'Self, others and the environment' along with a few snow ball fights to keep everyone going.

    When the weather had improved enough, the group were taken out for their biggest challenge - ‘mountain day’ on Schiehallion, one of Scotland’s best known Munros. The group walked part of the way up this classic Munro, with some making it higher than others, but with levels of commitment high for all. Each participant exceeded their own expectations, contending with tricky conditions and snow drifts up to their knees. Later in the day they also took part in role play exercises focussing on 'triggers' and how to control behaviour to gain positive consequences.

    The last day of the course focused on participant's ‘Quality World’ (what they want out of life) and the strategies that they can use to get there. With support from their 1-1 field team member, they also completed an action plan outlining their goals and ambitions for the coming days, weeks and months.

    On all of Venture Trust’s wilderness journeys, the weather may significantly influence how the course will evolve. This Transitions journey was no different, being full of changes due to the snow. However, the group adapted well to these and were able to press on and overcome the challenges presented to them. This will serve them well as they continue their personal journeys.

    Merry Christmas and good luck in the future to all the participants from the field team - Sally, John, Polly, Gregor and Stu.

    See yourself differently.

    More information on our Transitions to Independent Living programme can be found here. This course would not be possible without the support of our funders. A big thanks to Dulverton Trust, Scottish Government Housing Voluntary Sector Grant Scheme, Simon Gibson Charitable Trust and the Mackintosh Foundation.

  • | News | Participant stories

    Build a Bike Graduation Event

    On Friday 31st July we celebrated the achievements of 23 Venture Trust participants who completed the Build a Bike programme.

    Four, week-long, courses supported by the Department for Work and Pensions via Job Centre Plus were run in partnership with The Bike Station - Edinburgh. Participants received support to build their confidence, motivation and employability while learning valuable hands-on vocational training in bike construction in a workshop environment. At the end of the course participants were given the chance to keep the bike they had built and also shown how to cycle safely and efficiently both in the city and off-road.

    All the participants were referred to Venture Trust after a prolonged period of unemployment, with the aim of giving them a chance to learn a new set of practical skills as well as finding out more about bikes and cycling, in a supportive group environment. Venture Trust Outreach Workers have been on hand every step of the way providing one-to-one support to participants to enable them to take their next steps into volunteering, training, work placements and employment.

    There have been a number of notable successes and inspiring stories of the tangible difference this course has made to participants’ lives, with demand for the courses and the positive outcomes far exceeding our targets for this pilot project.

    “I took part in Venture Trust's Build a Bike scheme after a long period of unemployment. I was able to learn new skills in a calm and supportive environment, and it helped my confidence knowing I could learn new things and work well with others.”

    Angus joined the course after being unemployed for over a year and when we first met him, his morale was very low. The Build a Bike programme really improved his confidence and, with the support of his Venture Trust Outreach Worker, he successfully applied for and completed a placement with one of our corporate partners. Since completing the placement he has secured full-time employment as a Systems Operator.

    “Venture Trust……supported me through a successful interview for a voluntary placement. The placement was enjoyable and interesting, and subsequently I gained paid employment. At that interview I was able to use the placement to demonstrate my ability to work and it gave me the belief to know I could do the job. Venture Trust made a great difference in my life, and its staff gave me a lot of friendly support and feedback while looking for work.”

    As well as gaining confidence and learning a new set of skills, participants have discovered how to make the most of their local environment using their bikes, both in the city and off-road. For many, this is already helping them to make cycling a part of their everyday lives, they tell us that they are more active now and that they are using their bikes to access training and employment opportunities. Developing a new interest for themselves (and their families), plus realising the sense of freedom of having their own transport is also some of the fantastic feedback we received at the event.

    The Bike Station has also generously donated a bicycle computer to each participant, to track how much mileage they clock up during the next six months and to give them hints and tips about their cycling.

    Thanks again to our partners at The Bike Station and Job Centre Plus and also to Sainsbury’s Quartermile for providing refreshments for the event. We are so pleased with the success of this innovative programme and wish all our Build a Bike graduates every success for the future!

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