Venture Trust's 'Next Steps' women's programme was featured in the Herald newspaper on Tuesday 9th October 2012. Through discussions with three women who've taken part in the programme, the article highlights the life-changing impact of Venture Trust, and its relevance to the political climate emerging from the Commission on Women Offenders.
The article reports that it [the Next Steps programme] 'is the type of initiative likely to become more common in Scotland as its approach reflects many of the key recommendations put forward by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini in her report on women offenders published in April.
One of its central aspects was the importance of addressing the high number of low-level women offenders who ended up in prison as a result of addiction, abuse and poor mental health. Responding to Dame Angiolini's report, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill stressed that for female offending to fall, vulnerable women needed help in tackling those issues'.
Margaret, one of the women featured in the article, describes standing terrified on the edge of a pier deciding whether or not to take the plunge. Today it's become a metaphor for her new confident approach to life.
"It was the most frightened I'd ever been. The rain was pouring down, the sky was black, the sea dark, yet I jumped.
"Now whenever I'm worried about doing something I think back to how I plucked up the courage to give the pier-jump a go and even though I'm anxious I know I can always try."
Unsurprisingly, the recent expeditions have been.... wet. Here's a report from one of our short overnight expeditions, where everyone managed to stay positive despite the conditions.
After the last course, which involved a lot of very high winds, we headed out on Thursday for a short 1 night trip with the rain falling steadily. We picked up 8 young people in Sterling who were all ready and rearing to go despite how wet it was.
By the time the group had all changed into their kit, and we had walked to the campsite we were all starting to feel quite soggy, and the grassy area we had to camp on was covered in puddles. Amazingly as we set up camp, and then played some games there was absolutely no moaning about the weather and everybody was getting on really well.
The group’s fantastic attitude was maintained throughout the evening, with them almost achieving the amazing feat of finishing all the vegetables we had given them. The next morning we were greeted by a frost, but at least there was sunshine.
Again the group’s attitude shone as we finished the morning’s tasks. We then moved on to canoeing on the loch, which despite some of the group’s fears everybody participated in fully.
A change of clothes, and a good lunch then took us to the end of the course.
Well done to the whole group. The staff team were all really impressed with you attitudes, and we look forward to seeing you on a 7 day expedition sometime soon.
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.