Network Rail and registered charity Venture Trust are working in partnership to help individuals get their lives back on track. The partnership is already having a major impact on the lives of some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged people – leaving a lasting legacy in families and communities across Scotland. With lots more planned, here’s where it all started. This is Martin’s story:
Martin (not his real name) was referred to Venture Trust in March 2014, and it was immediately clear that his relationship with his young son was the most significant motivation for him in his life. At that point, he had sporadic contact with him, with the added difficulty of potential conflict with the child’s mother, after they had split a year earlier when his son was a few months old. Martin was spending a lot of his money on gambling, as well as spending many days at the pub or at home smoking cannabis, and admitted to difficulties managing his anger and frustration. This resulted in offending behaviours, for which he was sentenced to a Community Payback Order. Since then little had changed for Martin, other than that he began sleeping on the sofa at his father’s house, and he saw his son even less.
Martin had asked his Criminal Justice Social Worker to refer him to Venture Trust, as he had heard from a few friends that it had helped them to ‘sort their heads out’. He said that they appeared much more confident and clearer about what they wanted to do with their lives, and he said that one of them now had a job after getting put forward for a work placement through Venture Trust.
During Phase 1 of the Venture Trust “Living Wild” programme (which is part-funded by The Scottish Government, Comic Relief and several UK trusts & foundations), Martin’s focus was on reducing his alcohol and cannabis use in preparation for the toughest part of the Venture Trust programme – a 10-day personal development “coreskills” course all in Scotland’s dramatic wilderness. His Venture Trust Outreach worker supported him to set clear and measureable goals to work towards week by week in the build-up to his personal development journey.
New ideas and new skills – the wilderness journey:
By the time he started Phase 2 of the Venture Trust programme in April, Martin had worked out exactly what he wanted to achieve. He wanted to learn to control his drug and alcohol use; to stop gambling; and to learn to negotiate differences in order to better communicate with the mother of his child. He thought that if he developed his thinking skills to the point that he was able to achieve these goals, then perhaps the future could be different for him, and that maybe he could even think about having his own tenancy and start looking for work.
The wilderness journey lasted 10 days, starting with Martin self-travelling to Stirling by train, where he met a group of other young people in similar situations. Together, the group collectively committed to a “social contract” of behaviour to create a safe learning environment for all involved. Basecamp was established to the west of Fort William, from where the group climbed and abseiled in Glen Nevis, canoed for 3 days down Loch Sheil and trekked over 50 miles of mountainous terrain from Glenfinnan to Kinloch Rannoch. During those ten days, Martin worked with the group on problem solving techniques, explored positive and negative habits, choosing effective behaviours, and identified how to recognise and overcome the ‘triggers’ that made him react negatively in challenging situations at home. Martin developed his ability to review and evaluate the strategies that he was using, getting better at thinking through actions and consequences in different situations.
In the wilderness Martin thrived. He learned that through thinking differently he could do things differently and be the person that he wanted to be. He developed strategies to maintain his motivation when in the past he would have thrown in the towel when things got tough. This was particularly evident on the group’s hill day in Glen Nevis – the ascent was challenging for all the participants, but Martin showed determination in order to reach the summit, accepting advice from staff members and reflecting afterwards on his own sense of achievement by seeing it through.
Martin also demonstrated his ability to communicate and negotiate differences with fellow participants whilst in the wilderness. His dedicated field team member even noted that “(Martin) built strong relationships with his peers. He took the safe space of the course seriously and worked to support the others.” On day four, Martin made huge efforts to assist another participant, who was struggling with the course, to keep going. He also managed to avoid negative behaviour that was being displayed by some of the other participants – such as staying up after lights-out – and negotiated potential conflicts in the group dynamic. All of these actions showed the matured intentions of an individual committed to change. Martin went home with a detailed Action Plan, using his newfound confidence and skills to make the changes that he wanted.
Moving forward – with Network Rail’s help
During his first meeting back home with his Venture Trust Outreach Worker, Martin explained that in the wilderness he did the most difficult things he had ever done, but by taking things step-by-step and asking for support, he could succeed even when they had not initially gone to plan. In the past, he would refuse any form of support and often just give up on tasks. He said “No matter what happens there is always a choice, always something that you can do”. He also stated that for the first time since he was about 10 years old he spent 10 days without using any drugs or alcohol: “I now realise that I use that stuff to deal with problems and I don’t need it. If I have got a problem then I need to make a plan and then get off my arse and solve it”.
Following Martin’s wilderness course, he significantly reduced his alcohol and cannabis use, and started visiting his son each weekend: “I used to think it was all my ex-bird’s fault and that she needed to change, but since I’ve been away with Venture Trust I’ve learned that she is actually alright, and since I’ve been different she has been really sound about things. I get to see my wee boy every week now and she has said that I can maybe have him round to stay if I get my own tenancy”. The great news is that a few months later he managed to secure his own tenancy, adding further independence and stability to his life.
Venture Trust has recently been working in partnership with Network Rail to offer employability opportunities and pathways into jobs in the Network Rail industry. Martin was one of the first to take on the challenge – using his outreach worker as a sounding board he completed an application, took part in a full interview process and successfully secured a 6 week work placement as part of the cleaning team at Edinburgh’s Waverly station. The placement was demanding and varied, requiring early starts to commute from East Lothian, and working hard in the Station’s new marketplace to set up stalls, assist stall holders and promote their wares. Martin made a big impression:
“Martin has been involved with all aspects, from the setting up of the market, supporting traders arriving with their products, helping to bring products into the market, checking cabling to the stalls, setting up of the cafe area, flyering, stall holder assistance, and this all before elevenses :o) he turns up early and then we have to literally tell him to stop working as otherwise he would be with us until way over his allotted time!” (Tania, Waverly Market Manager)
“Martin has made some particularly strong and positive impressions on us both. He has consistently turned up for work an hour earlier than his start time of 0800hrs, and remained longer than the 1400hrs we envisaged. Martin was able to work very confidently on the Market set up, and was a great help to Tania and her traders. It was also great to appreciate first-hand how Martin’s confidence and communication skills, in particular, had already greatly improved, and I was delighted to receive an application form from him to work as part of our cleaning contractor team, Interserve, which I’ve forwarded to their Site Manager for his consideration.” (Juliet, Waverley Station Manager)
Having successfully completed the voluntary placement before Christmas, and fully adhered to Network Rail's zero tolerance policy on alcohol and drugs, he has since been offered a permanent part-time position with one of Network Rail’s subcontractors at Waverley Station. His employers have also assured him that he can change to full-time hours once he has completed his college course in railway engineering at Edinburgh College which he began after being inspired by his initial placement.
Martin asked us to mention that he is extremely grateful for all the support he has received over more than a year from Venture Trust and the Network Rail "family" of agencies. Station Manager Juliet and Market Manager Tania played a huge role in helping Martin thrive in the placement, whilst Dave Boyce from the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Project (EGIP) team played a vital role in obtaining the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) without which the placement could not have gone ahead.
Martin’s achievements are testament to the strong partnership working that Venture Trust and the Network Rail family have set up to help disadvantaged young people and adults enhance their confidence, their motivation and their employability skills. But most of all, they are testament to all the hard work, commitment and talents that Martin has unlocked to get his life “On track”.
Thank you to our key funding partners, including:
For a full list of our funding partners please click here.
It's not every day you get the chance to run over 26 miles through London... it's not every day you would want to run over 26 miles through London, but Jess is doing just that in aid of Venture Trust!
This year celebrates The London Marathon's 35th anniversary, and it's a very special year for Venture Trust too- our first ever London Marathon runner will pound the streets of the capital to raise money for Venture Trust! Jess, who is the Business Development Manager of Venture Trust's social enterprise, Venture Mòr, is currently training hard in the outstanding natural landscapes of Scotland with her team of Applecross runners.
She is joined by Sarah, who's is raising money for Fight for Sight, and 'Granddad Gerry' who's raising money for Prostate Cancer UK. Together they have organised a number of events, from Zumba-thons, to bake sales, micro-marathons, to film nights to raise their pledged targets of a whopping £2,000 each for their chosen charity. You can follow their progress on Facebook, Twitter, and on their website and blog too.
On why she decided to take on the challenge, Jess told us:
"I have been blown away by the good things [Venture Trust does] for disadvantaged young adults through outdoor adventure. A lot of the people who come through the Venture Trust's doors have been missed or even turned away by society. It is the hard work, patience and utter brilliance of the people at this organization that really make a difference to so many young lives.
The money raised for the Venture Trust will go some way towards funding more places for young people that, because of their past experiences, have become marginalised and vulnerable and are living chaotic lifestyles. The Venture Trust wilderness courses use a combination of counselling, constructive support, practical help and outdoor adventure to provide individuals with the capacity to make positive changes, and to take responsibility for their lives.
I work for Venture Mòr, the newly established social enterprise wholly owned by Venture Trust. We are made up of three parts: an outdoor activity company providing adventure holidays across the Highlands; a large hub in the form of Hartfield House hostel in Applecross, and; a pledge to provide a springboard into the world of work for disadvantaged young adults. So raising funds for Venture Trust is an extension of what we are trying to do through Venture Mòr.
I will be working for my money, hosting regular events and putting myself through my paces every week in the spectacularly steep hills of Applecross. For full details of all our events and training, check the Team Applecross Run London facebook page."
Please pop over to Jess' fundraising page to make a donation and cheer her on... afterall, she's the one doing the leg work... 26 miles of it!
If you feel like taking on a similar challenge, please do have a look at our events page!
Venture Trust is delighted to announce today that we have received funding of £60,000 from the Scottish Government Housing Voluntary Grant Scheme. This funding supports 24 places on our 'Transitions to Independent Living' programme for young people from social housing and homelessness support agencies in Scotland in 2015/16.
Venture Trust’s ‘Transitions to Independent Living’ programme has been running for nearly 5 years and is designed to help young people resident in supported accommodation to develop their confidence and employability, increasing their access to local services, and establish sustainable lifestyles. The programme has been successful and is popular with the participants, referral networks and partners. It is regularly proven to better equip participants with the skills and attributes needed to access employment, education, training, or volunteering as well as offering a catalytic shift in attitude and perspective that helps participants plan their move into independent accommodation.
Venture Trust developed the ‘Transitions’ programme to address the unique needs and circumstances facing young people in supported housing situations. Using our established and effective personal development curriculum, based on Choice Theory and Reality Therapy, the programme gives each participant the opportunity to join a 7 to 10 day wilderness expedition, where they are given time, space and intensive support in a wilderness setting, where boundary-stretching challenges serve as a vehicle for learning, reflection and discussion as a group and on a 1-to-1 basis.
Mark Bibbey, Venture Trust Chief Executive commented:
“Venture Trust is delighted to received funding for the second year from the Scottish Housing Voluntary Grant Scheme for our Transitions to Independent Living programme. This investment offers 24 young people in Scotland who are currently experiencing, or are at risk of, unstable housing or homelessness a lifeline to undertake a development programme using the wilderness and outdoors as a catalyst for learning new life skills such as communication, planning, problem solving, consequential thinking and how to take responsibility for actions. The people we support are often the ‘hardest to reach’ and feel that opportunities are out-with their grasp. By focusing on life skills, we help nurture an individual’s confidence and motivation to make positive changes in their life and ideally to move into stable accommodation and on to work, education or training. Without support we risk leaving these young people behind and to uncertain futures.”
A huge thank you to the Scottish Government Housing Voluntary Grant Scheme and we look forward to another successful year of Transitions!
You can read more about our funding from the Scottish Government Housing Voluntary Grant Scheme on the Scottish Government's website. You can also have a look at our key 'Transitions' referral partners here.
Now, we’re not just being rude... participants will be just that, on their bikes on four 10 day Living Wild Courses with a twist! We’re delighted to introduce Venture Trust’s “The Change Cycle: supporting young people who are involved in offending into outdoors recreation and learning”.
Following two successful initial cycling pilots in 2013-14 match-funded by the Big Lottery’s “Investing in Ideas”, and building upon the well-established Living Wild- Change for Change programme with the support of funding from Scottish Natural Heritage, this new programme introduces participants to bikes and cycling, not only in their local environment, but also in the Eastern Cairngorms – an area of outstanding natural beauty but with a wealth of wilderness trails offering great flexibility for cycling expeditions.
This project will work with young people sentenced to Community Payback Orders & facing multiple social and psychological barriers and barriers to accessing and experiencing nature and landscapes in Scotland. Venture Trust will for the first time use cycling activities to introduce them to outdoor activities, to realise the recreational value of such activities, and to learn the vital life skills required to make and sustain positive changes in their lives.
‘The Change Cycle’ consists of the three phases we see in the Living Wild programme, but additionally, phase 3 of the project includes the facilitation of participants by Venture Trust outreach staff to access existing cycling groups/ organisations which offer local and affordable ways to enjoy the outdoors. These will provide participants sustained opportunities to experience nature and landscapes.
The Change Cycle in Action
To begin their personal development journey in the Highlands, participants on the latest ‘Change Cycle’ programme started with a walking expedition. The participants used this part of the journey to really get to know one another... and got to know true Scottish weather in the process (everything from downpours to glorious sunshine).
They started each morning with 1-to-1 support sessions setting their own individual goals, enabling participants to focus on personal development throughout the day. Participants were given their own journals to record these goals in and set a new personal goal each morning. Not only did this get them into the practise of planning ahead, but also got them thinking about what they wanted to include in their ‘Action Plans’ which were completed on day nine and implemented at home.
The second part of the journey was completed on mountain bikes. The participants spent 3 full days on 2 wheels, cycling from camp to camp. The bikes were introduced with a skills session to make sure participants had a thorough understanding of the basics of biking: braking, gears, body position, and speed were all discussed. The bikes took participants through a number of different terrains including farmland, hillsides, and forests; they even managed to cover a huge 25 kilometres in just one day!
A number of kind landowners gave participants permission to have camp fires which made for a nice warm end to the day and the perfect setting for socialising and evening reviews. Head torches were out by 10:30 sharp, but no one minded the early nights- the snoring could be heard from miles away! The group wild camped for 6 nights and even had a night in a Venture Trust tipi.
During the course, participants looked at how to build appropriate relationships with one another as well taking personal responsibility for kit, equipment, and the environment. The group concentrated their efforts into conserving the areas they used and ensured all the rubbish that accumulated over the course was disposed of properly.
On the last night, the participants were involved in individual development sessions to focus their attention on home life and what changes they would like to make when they finish the course. The group completed their ‘Action Plans’ and enjoyed a hot celebration meal in the evening. There was a final course review, where the group discussed the highs and lows of the course and the night was finished off with a course slideshow. Each participant received their own certificates, and according to the field team, ‘they earned every word on them!’
John Muir Award
Another exciting addition to the Living Wild programme is the opportunity for participants to complete the John Muir Discovery Level Award as part of their wilderness journey.
In our latest ‘Change Cycle’ wilderness expedition participants directly experienced how wildlife interacts with the wilderness, for example Sand Martins nesting in the banks of a river and Ospreys swooping to catch fish. The group took responsibility by employing “leave no trace” camping methods including organising litter sweeps, burying human waste, only collecting fallen wood for fires, digging fire pits and ensuring they filled them in afterwards. They also kept a record of the bird species they saw (some of which include Buzzards, Oystercatchers, Lapwings, and Great Spotted Woodpeckers) and the locations in which the spotted them.
Following the end of the wilderness the group split into three groups and each delivered a presentation which included a route description, more information about some of the bird species they had recorded, and how they took responsibility for conserving the wild places they had journeyed through. We are delighted that they all achieved this prestigious award!
Venture Trust have included cycling in four Living Wild wilderness journey courses in this year. The first of these ran in August 2014 with the support of Scottish Natural Heritage and had a phenomenal response from the participants and the staff!
Good luck to previous and future ‘Change Cycle’ participants and a huge thank you to Scottish Natural Heritage, and the Big Lottery’s “Investing in Ideas” for their invaluable support, and to the Peter Harrison Foundation for funding our vital kit and equipment.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” - Albert Einstein
Change and Transition: The Hero’s Journey!
Deciding that you want to make a step change in your life and making it happen is a period of transition that is challenging and exciting in equal measure. Much like a journey, if you can be guided and supported along the route you have chosen you will have a better chance of reaching your destination. If you journey for a while with other people in a similar situation it is a much richer experience. An experience punctuated by the scenery, the stops you make, and the views and insights that you and your fellow travellers will share along the way. Imagine a journey where you can see yourself differently and be seen differently by others...
Venture Trust’s ‘ Transitions to Independent Living’ programme is such a journey. The programme, which has been running for nearly 5 years, is designed to help young people resident in supported accommodation to develop their confidence and employability, increasing their access to local services and establish sustainable lifestyles. The programme has been successful and is popular with the participants, referral networks and partners. It is regularly proven to better equip participants with the skills and attributes needed to access employment, education, training, or volunteering as well as offering a catalytic shift in attitude and perspective that helps participants plan their move into independent accommodation.
Venture Trust developed the ‘Transitions’ programme to address the unique needs and circumstances facing young people in supported housing situations. Using our established and effective personal development curriculum, based on Choice Theory and Reality Therapy, the programme gives each participant the opportunity to join a 10-day wilderness expedition, where they are given time, space and intensive support in a wilderness setting, where boundary-stretching challenges serve as a vehicle for learning, reflection and discussion as a group and on a 1-to-1 basis
The ‘Transitions’ programme has several unique features :
- It works very closely with a network of supported accommodation providers, taking referrals from all over the UK. A programme with a truly national reach
- A bursary scheme is now a key part of the programme which allows a wider network of partners , increased places and increased accessibility of the programme to participants by offering subsidised places
- It is a journey both literally and metaphorically. Most participants will take a train to Inverness or another agreed location in the Scottish Highlands, where they are met by Venture Trust staff. Previous participants have travelled from Foyers all over the UK, including as far south as Eastbourne, Plymouth and Truro. The independent journey to northern Scotland is a core part of the experience, challenging participants to be self-determined and self-reliant from the outset.
The Bursary scheme has proved popular in concept and in execution. It is supported by the Joseph Rank Trust and is a good example of partnership working that allows Venture Trust to deliver a targeted and specific programme to the greatest number of participants where the need is greatest. This pioneering approach has elicited much interest as a model for both programme funding and delivery. The Joseph Rank Trust bursary scheme and the places that it funds are referred from organisations grounded in the Christian ethos and practice, but who support young people of all faiths and none. This reflects the common values that we share and our commitment to helping the less fortunate members of society.
Since the ‘Transitions’ programme started in 2009 over 125 young people from all over the UK have participated, with referrals from over 40 different referral routes and organisations. Our most recent ‘Transitions’ programme took place earlier this summer at the beginning of July (the start of the midge season in Scotland). A glimpse into the participant journey demonstrates the impact that the ‘Transition’ programme has.
Shona (not her real name), a referral from the Foyer network was the beneficiary of a Joseph Rank Trust bursary. She travelled from London to Inverness to start her wilderness expedition earlier this spring. Her progress towards addressing her personal development needs was commented upon by a staff member
‘Although she showed confidence to talk in front of the group from the beginning of the course she demonstrated an increase in her confidence to assert herself. To begin with she often agreed with others opinions but as the course progressed she began to be able to express alternative opinions. She was able to openly and maturely disagree and talk up in a conversation about ‘exclusive relationships’.
Kevin (not his real name) took part in a wilderness expedition earlier this summer and impressed many of the staff team with his attitude and approach whilst on the expedition and after returning home. His outreach worker commented on the positive turn that he has taken:
‘Kevin returned from the course with a clear idea of what his action plan would be and stated the support he got from VT field team staff was the best he's ever experienced . He wants to thank staff for believing in him and giving him back his self respect and self belief as well as the ability to go forwards in life helping others in similar situations to himself. He is now working as a peer support drug and alcohol worker for the NHS ...’
The programme continues to be popular having real relevance and impact for those participants who undertake this challenging journey. A journey which helps them to shape, change and influence their future and that enables them to reach their destination.