Well done to David, Ryan and Graeme who braved some extreme winds, and some very cold water to reach the end of their wilderness experience last week.
We based ourselves around Braemar, which gave us a fantastic location from which to play in the Lui gorge on our activity day. Despite how cold the water was the team got stuck right in and even achieved the distinction of having every member of the group jump off the highest rock.
The other great thing about being based around Braemar was that it gave us easy access to some great mountains, and it was into those same mountains that we headed for the expedition stage of the trip. Our first expedition day involved a 7km walk in to our advanced base camp. The team did really well to set up a fantastic camp right on the edge of the loch, and to make sure that they had all had a good meal to help keep themselves warm. After we had all eaten we spent some time talking about what we need from life in order to feel happy, before having a final review of the day, and settling down to try and get some rest before our summit day.
During the night most of us struggled to get much sleep due to the high winds that were hammering our tents. Despite this the team was up early the next day, and after a good breakfast we had our morning check in, and introduced the thread, or focus, for the day. As it was the summit day our thread was challenge, which was very fitting given the lack of sleep, and the high winds. After a quick check that we had all packed enough spare clothes, and food for the day we set off up the mountains.
Lochnagar is a very impressive mountain, which reaches the impressive height of 1155m at its peak. Though the walk up started quite steeply the team worked well together, and we were all grateful of fact that for the first few hours of the climb we were out of the wind. This meant that after the first period of climbing we could have our support sessions near a beautiful waterfall while enjoying the sun.
By the time we got higher on the mountain we had a few members of the group who, despite being very sporty at home, were finding the climb quite tough, and were in need of regular breaks. This was not helped by the fact that as we got higher we became more and more exposed to the high winds. As we reached the plateau before the summit we started to feel their full force. Despite the fact that at this stage we could only hold conversations by shouting we covered the ground to the summit quite quickly.
After some chocolate, and some rest on the summit we started to head down. It was quite late, and with some well established blisters, when we finally reached our camp. With everybody feeling quite tired we got straight on with the task of getting some food. We then only had time for a thorough review before bed.
On the last day of our expedition we had to walk about 6km to the bus. With tired bodies it was nice to have the easy track to walk along. It also gave the group a chance to spend some time walking on their own, so that they had a chance to reflect upon the changes they wanted to make as they started to head back home.
Reaching the bus we were greeted by Andy who had prepared bacon rolls, a nice reward after a tough few days. The final task that the group had was to then fill in their Action Plans, so that they could record those things they had been thinking about on their solo walk.
Though the weather had not made things easy David, Ryan and Graeme did really well to soldier on to the end of the course.
We're really pleased that more participants from our 'Transitions' programme have taken the time to share their thoughts and reflections on the experience...
"My name is fravian and i had an experience of a life time when i was in Scotland with the venture trust. I learnt new skills like time management and so on. Also the experience helped me to refocus and to get my life back on track. The course is really an eye opening. I didn’t even know that this experience was gonna be this exciting. I can reassure you that these 10 days that you gonna spend here at venture trust will be the best days in your life. You will get a chance to do activities such as abseiling, rock climbing, and coaststeering etc. You will regain a new confidence level that you never had before. I will advise you to just take that chance and your life will change for the better forever".
"Hey, venture trust is something that If you want to make a change in your life go for it!!!!! Getting told I was coming up 2 days before was quite daunting and I felt quite nervous about it. But that soon changed as soon as I met everyone willing to make a change in their life as I did, we had something in comon straight away. And from there we all set off to have fun and reflect on our lives. It has made me actually reliese a lot more than I thought and I will take it all away back home and im so proud of myself for sticking in and making a little effort will go along way. There isn’t a much better feeling than some achievement".
"Easy Mush.... Just a few words. Most people think that the venture trust course is a fun 10 day holiday, yes maybe it is in some ways it is but it is also a course where you have to you get you mind working in ways in which you never have done before because you take the easy way out all the time. Since I have been here I have had no bad distractions as it is out in the wilderness where there is no drugs, no alcohol and no one I know, it’s got me thinking about all the bad things in my life and thinking of ways to change it for the better. I’ve met some amazing people and it has done me the world of good. See I came here thinking this is going to be rubbish but I’m leaving with so many different skills and my head or i know exactly what i want in life and now i can also say that i have the motivation to do something instead of getting so far then bottling it. If it wasn’t for venture trust i don’t think i would be able to lead a normal stable life so thank you to the people who run it and thank you to the people who fund it".
Love from Sammy R (lil one)
"Hi to all the blog viewers, all I can say is this course has changed my outlook upon life. It has made me realize that I have skills that I didn’t even know that I had. I can’t really say much because you will haft to come on the course to experience what I have and it is an amazing feeling. You will meet great staff and have a laugh. It is hard at times put you will push though it and once you have it is a great feeling that you have succeeded throughout the course. I personal didn’t think I would learn anything because I have done this type of thing before but I guarantee that you will.
If you are worried about coming the staff will make you feel at home as soon as you step foot out of the bus there are very greeting and polite.
I was worried about what types of people are going to be on the course, made me nervous to begin with but it turned out the people are very nice and easy to talk to. They will proberly been in the same situation as you or have been so that would give you a conversation starter to talk about to someone or just even ask where they are from and it will begin from there. Ave gone on quite a bit now so come to venture trust you will love it!!!"
Well done to all the participants on this programme, and many thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.
In March 2012, a group of women from Addaction travelled to Applecross to take part in our Next Steps programme. We were thrilled to hear from Ann, one of the Addaction staff members who accompanied the group, with her thoughts on the experience:
Ann from Addaction in Kilmarnock writes:
Recently, I was privileged to accompany ten women from our Scottish services for a series of outdoor activities, camping and team building at Applecross in Wester Ross. All of this was due to a pilot project between Addaction and the Venture Trust.
Everyone challenged themselves both physically and mentally, and in doing so gained confidence and a real sense of their own power and purpose for moving forward in their recovery journeys. The women benefited immensely from the skills and expertise of the Venture Trust Team. I believe they were able to do so, as the reasons they were selected for this pilot were the right ones.
Each was 'in a good place' and open to new experiences, and they formed a strong unit, supporting and helping each other. They came together to solve problems, play games, feel safe outside their comfort zone, attempt big physical and mental challenges and to learn to trust each other and the workers with their vulnerabilities. The women got time away from their normal lives and responsibilities, and were able to bond with others at the same stage of recovery.
We all agreed that the camping expedition to Sand Bay was the most productive part of the whole trip, and the women got a lot from the peace and tranquillity of such a beautiful setting.
It was as though we had taken the sun with us and those days were magical. It was an eye opener for me to see the Venture Trust staff carry out key work on the sands, rocks, shore and grassy spaces; very different experience from the urban settings I am used to. The women got lots of quiet time if they wanted to and they could choose to have time alone in a beautiful setting, where they could have peace, solitude and time to process their thoughts with support close to hand.
Hillwalking, abseiling, crate stacking and pier jumping were a few of the activities on offer and every woman can take pride in the full commitment they gave. Some found their voice to express their opinions, some their emotions, and some found that they were natural leaders (there were also a few comediennes in the group!).
Everyone worked together to complete tasks and the wonderful Venture Trust staff couldn't believe their luck at getting to work with such a receptive group, and people who had learned so much from working on their issues with Addaction. I met up with half of the group a few months later and they still have 'the power'!
All in all, it was an amazing experience I'll never forget.
Thursday 21st June saw Venture Trust’s first ever Graduation Event, held at Kirknewton House Stables in Edinburgh. What a day to remember...
The event - that first of what we hope will be many such graduations - was an opportunity to celebrate and recognise the achievements of young people who have successfully completed a Venture Trust programme. Almost 60 participants graduated; also taking part in some of the activities used on expedition and community days, and sharing their experience and expertise with guests and supporters who had come along to celebrate with them.
The main event of the evening centred around the presentation of graduation certificates, and short speeches from two of our graduates – Brian and Michelle. These speeches were heartfelt, revealing, and emotional, illustrating the fondness with which participants remember their time with Venture Trust, the important role they felt it to play in their lives, and the long-term effects on their achievements.
"Overall it [the IYF programme] was a fantastic experience, one I’ll never forget, and since doing it I’m a brand new person. I've learned that 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" – Michelle, IYF graduate
The event was also an opportunity to showcase Venture Trust’s programmes to potential supporters; a chance for them to see how and why our programmes are so effective. The feedback from those who attended was extremely positive, and we are confident that the event acted as a powerful showcase for our programmes, enhancing our reputation and promising positive effects with regards to referrals and funding.
“It was a great evening, I particularly enjoyed taking part in some of the excercises, a bit tricky, fun and also helped to provide an insight into what goes on during the IYF course. The two young people who spoke about their experience were inspiring and I know that anyone of the young people in the room would have a very similar story to tell. It was interesting to hear from young people whose lives look very different to when they first got involved with VT and the skills VT helped them to gain are still being utilised in their next stage of their life” – Supporter feedback
We aim to continue to run these graduation events at regular intervals over the coming years – hopefully bigger and better each time! Many, many thanks to all staff who worked so hard to deliver the event, to all the young people who made it such a success, and to our fantastic supporters:
- Mr and Mrs Welwood at Kirknewton House Stables
- George Neilson and Billy Mcguire for their wonderful photography
- The local businesses who kindly supported our raffle: Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Scottish Seabird Centre, Loopy Lorna’s Tea House, the Scotch Whisky Experience, Go Ape!, Craggan Outdoors, Zumba Shack Edinburgh and Tone Zone.
At the end of expeditions, we ask participants to reflect on their experiences. Here's a selection from our recent 'Transitions' expedition up at Applecross:
"Am just writing to let u know a wee bit about Venture Trust course, it Is a 10 day course to try and change your life and it soot’s everyones needs, it is a 1 and a million opportunity, if u get the chance to go, u should, the staff is fantastic min, they are always there to help and support u, u get to go campin for 4 days, basically livin in the wild lol, but it is a great laff tho, then u also get to do heaps of activities min, a was terrified of being in the water and a thought if a went in a would drown but they give u all the safety kit a was wary afore a went in but a was all right after a while cus a had the help and support from all the young people in the group and also the staff and a feel more confident now and a was also scared of heights but a kinda came over ma fear cus we were walkin over big cliffs and mountains it was amazing min, I have gained more self esteem and more confidence while bein on venture trust. I have made heaps of new pals and everything, if it wisnae for be comin to venture trust I would of bein in the jail so am glad a came to venture trust, it wis amazing but don’t think its a holiday cause its not, its a course to make a change to your life. if u have the opportunity to go and u wont to change your life honestly come to venture trust min"
"When i got told i was going on the Corse i wasn’t really that excited but when i got here all that changed because it has given me so much more and something worth trying for and more purpose and belonging if u get the chance i would take it as its a once in a lifetime opportunity"
"Venture trust has been a once in a life time experience for me, you get to meet alot of new people from alot of different places with so many different backgrounds and learn so much without even realising because even though your only for 10 days once you’ve got to know everyone you can have such a laugh along the journey and have such an awesome week.
As soon as you get here, you do have to hand in your phone and if you’re like me totally glued to your phone can’t go nowhere without it and feel completely naked because it’s not in your hand, it hasn’t even bothered me because ive had such a good time been here making friends with new faces and enjoying everyone’s company including the staff there all ace! It feels so good to be away from what I call home been and been away from all the crap that surrounds me when I’m there I don’t even want to go back because I know as soon I step foot back into Framingham foyer in Suffolk everything that I had left behind is going to be straight back in my face but I suppose at the end of the day been here and knowing that what’s there hasn’t even bothered me the slightest means you can do the same at home, so if you can change your life here you can do it there aswell....."
"My journey about when i came to the venture trust is that its a bit nerve racking at first but as you get into it is a really good experience and you can learn a lot about yourself and you can set yourself new goals and challenges and the first couple of days you get to know people you feel less nervous and you feel a lot more comfortable around the people you are with and you also learn new skills you also have a life time of experience so if you want to come on the venture trust course i’d definitely take this opportunity because you don’t have this opportunity this often so i would take it because its worth it in the long run and when you go back home you will miss the people you have been around for the past ten days but i would definitely take this opportunity if you get the chance."
"Yes, you do abseiling and other activities but this is something more than a holiday. This is something that will change your life for the better. You will improve on yourself, your skills and other qualities. This is not easy but it is a life changing experience if you work with the staff. You don’t get your phone, there is no TV or internet. This may be hard but it is well worth the ten days."