Annabelle McPherson struggled with alcohol addiction.
Her dependence on alcohol was like a weight dragging her down beneath the water and had significantly impacted her and her family.
However, with support from Venture Trust and partner organisations, Annabelle has turned her life around and is repaying those who helped her when she was sinking. She has “swum” the Tweed River raising funds so others facing the same struggles she once did can get support.
“I wanted to help, in a small way, other people in similar situations to myself and give them hope,” Annabelle said.
“Venture Trust helped me to learn that although alcohol took a lot from me it didn't mean my life was over and that I could recover and be a responsible and worthwhile person in society and for this I cannot thank them enough.”
In June 2015 Annabelle enrolled on Venture Trust’s Next Steps course, a programme specifically designed for women in the criminal justice system, funded by The Big Lottery and a number of other trusts and foundations.
Two years later, the mother of two is giving hope and inspiration to other people.
In the early hours of August 18, when most people were waking up for breakfast, Annabelle set off on the final two lengths of her epic swim at her local swimming pool in Duns. When she touched the wall after length 6144 – or 96 miles – it signalled the end of an incredible two-and-a-half months of dedication, grit and endurance.
Almost 30 people, including her two daughters, joined Annabelle for her final lengths in the water and cheered as she “swam out past the lighthouse at Berwick-upon-Tweed”.
“That was great, really really good. When I got in the pool I was quite emotional but when I started to swim I just got on with it,” Annabelle said as she dried off.
“It hasn’t really sunk in. Some people might think it is utter madness but it has been good for me.”
To complete her marathon fund-raising effort, Annabelle powered through just over 100 lengths each day, five days a week. Her record for a day was 180 lengths!!
A fellow pool user said: "Anyone who swims will know what she has achieved. It's one thing to swim 100 lengths in one day, but to do it five days a week for two plus months, that is something else!!!"
Duns swimming pool manager Kirsty Inkpen said Annabelle should now “swim around the coast of Britain”.
“What she has achieved is absolutely wonderful. She’s done brilliant,” Kirsty said.
“Annabelle is a true inspiration to everyone. She has come a long way - I went to school with her. She took each day as it came and it just goes to show what you can achieve. I've never seen her so happy. She just looks so happy.”
To date Annabelle’s swim has raised over £1,200 for Venture Trust. Donations can still be made until the end of September online at Virgin Money Giving.
“The money I am raising will hopefully help people who have fallen on hardship and lost their way and enable them to rebuild their confidence and self-esteem to enjoy a better more fulfilling life,” Annabelle said.
Scottish charity Venture Trust has launched its innovative new employability programme to help Scottish youth experiencing challenging life circumstances turn their life around.
Champion mountain biker and adventure cyclist Lee Craigie along with Venture Trust chief executive Amelia Morgan officially set the wheels in motion for the CashBack Change Cycle programme on Tuesday (August 22) at the Hermitage of Braid Nature Reserve in Edinburgh.
The CashBack Change Cycle programme will give more than 200 vulnerable young people aged 16 to 24 from areas of deprivation across Scotland the tools to move into education, training, volunteering, work experience or employment.
The elements of the course include employability sessions, bike construction and maintenance including workshop experience with The Bike Station and a short wilderness residential that has work-related tasks and biking.
Participants will get to keep the bike they have built and use it for job hunting, accessing services, training, getting to work and leisure.
Lee spoke of her days as a teenager when she struggled to “fit in” and how getting on a bike played a big part in changing her life in a positive way.
She captivated those at the launch, including future programme participants, with inspirational tales of determination and willpower from her recent endurance race - the Tour Divide. The Tour Divide is an ultra-cycling challenge to pedal solo and self-supported the length of the Rocky Mountains, from Canada to the Mexican border where riders have to test themselves against mountains, deserts, bears and rattlesnakes.
A bike could be more than just a piece of equipment used for riding from one place to another, Lee said. It could be used “to change your life”. She encouraged those about to do the CashBack Change Cycle programme to think about the transformational powers new skills, motivation, determination and two wheels could have.
Many young people in Scotland still face barriers to gaining employment. These include drug and alcohol addiction, a criminal record, homelessness and other issues and it is important they have the support to make positive changes.
The three-week programme is funded by a grant from CashBack for Communities, a Scottish Government programme which takes funds recovered from the proceeds of crime and invests them into free activities and programmes for young people across Scotland.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson said: “Through CashBack we are supporting many of Scotland’s most disadvantaged young people to reach their full potential in life, helping them to learn new skills, boost their confidence and develop as responsible citizens."
“We are committed to tackling inequality and project such as Cashback Change Cycle will offer our most disadvantaged young people the opportunity to get involved in positive activities which will raise their attainment, ambition and aspirations.”
Venture Trust’s CEO Amelia Morgan said: “We are delighted to be launching this programme, partnering with The Bike Station, which will support young people to develop the skills, confidence and resilience to be ready to enter education, training or employment. Enabling young people to get a job and keep a job is a key priority for us to break a cycle of disadvantage and we are grateful to have the support of CashBack for Communities.”
For more information on the CashBack Change Cycle programme click here.
Venture Trust’s programmes for ex-service personnel have been featured in The Scotsman on Thursday, August 17th
The double page article highlighted the positive results emerging from the Positive Futures programme and for veterans on the Living Wild programme.
The article also explained how Venture Trust is filling a gap in support services for ex-servicemen and women with its unique three-phase programmes.
Interim findings from an independent evaluation suggest the Positive Futures programme is unique: “No other organisation is offering a three-phase programme for veterans, combining key ingredients delivered across three sequential phases.” Participants are improving their confidence, motivation and developing new skills to better deal with stressful, unfamiliar or negative situations. This is leading to better health, stability, education, training, employment or volunteering opportunities with Venture Trust and the organisation’s many partners.
Partner agencies and organisations have reported the improvement in the quality life for veterans they have referred to venture Trust.
“There have been dramatic and lasting life-changing outcomes. Clients are moving into employment, volunteering, education and training.”
Moving forward, with continued support from funding and delivery partners, Venture Trust wants to use evidence-based outcomes to inform and influence policy and best practice for ex-servicemen and women across the UK.
Venture Trust’s programmes are making a difference. They are helping veterans who are struggling with the transition to civilian life make positive changes.
“In essence, Venture Trust has given me a platform to enhance my life quality and the ability to help my fellow veterans.” – Brian Moran former Royal Marine Commando
You can read the full article on The Scotsman website.
Military veteran, Mark Monaghan has already spent 22 years serving Queen and Country in the Royal Navy; a role that often means giving up your right to choose, sacrificing family time, friends, and independence in order to keep the UK safe from harm.
What an inspiring mindset to then choose to help others despite finding the transition to civilian life a difficult prospect. Mark has not rested on his laurels; he has just completed the Great Glencoe Challenge to raise funds and awareness for Venture Trust, and the work we do to support military veterans.
The Great Glencoe Challenge comprises 26.2 miles of Scotland’s iconic scenery, through Glencoe to the foot of Ben Nevis, and covers 5,000ft of ascent. And Mark did it all with a smile on his face!
That is not the only challenge Mark has faced recently. Since leaving the Royal Navy as a submariner in 2013, Mark has thrown himself into making a new life. However, the Armed Forces can provide a structure and purpose which just isn’t there in civilian life; being removed from that secure environment can feel very isolating and daunting.
Mark embarked on a new career, settling in Scotland with his wife and daughter but began finding the demands of civilian life overwhelming. In 2016 Mark was diagnosed with depression which eventually resulted in him leaving his job. He had a fractious dispute with neighbours that led to intervention with the authorities, and was subsequently referred to Venture Trust.
This proved to be a turning point for Mark. He was determined to do something positive and was keen to find volunteering work with people less fortunate than himself. He made contact with Veterans 1st Point and Step Together who helped him enormously, and he enrolled on a SAAFA Lifeworks employability course.
In November 2016 Mark embarked on our Positive Futures course funded by Forces in Mind Trust. This comprises a five day wilderness-based journey specifically designed for military veterans struggling with the transition to civilian life. The programme, which takes individuals out of their usual environment, and uses the outdoors as a catalyst for positive change, redeploying skills learnt within the military to be utilised in civilian life, also includes one-to-one support for up to 18 months.
Mark was enthusiastic about Positive Futures from the very beginning. On completion of the wilderness journey, he undertook further ‘Speak Up’ employability training with us, and was one of three veterans selected for a traineeship at Venture Trust. Mark has been working as a Data Entry and Funding Admin Assistant since March. Taking part in the Great Glencoe Challenge is Mark’s way of giving something back to those that helped him when he needed it most, and in some way helping others to be able to access the support from which he benefitted.
Mark comments, “I completed a Positive Futures course last year. I have had wonderful support and involvement from Venture Trust and the course itself re-invigorated my love of the outdoors. I am passionate about raising awareness of the great work done by Venture Trust and have been inspired to challenge myself physically and mentally by taking on the Great Glencoe Challenge. I am hoping to raise money to help others get the opportunity that I had.”
You can still donate to Mark's cause and help him achieve his goals. Click here for his Virgin Money Giving page.
To find out more about Positive Futures programme, please click here.
Life has not always been easy for Annabelle McPherson; in fact, it has been a very hard journey. But that hasn’t stopped her from turning things around, and doing great things for others. Her latest escapade? She is swimming 96 miles, the length of the River Tweed, to raise funds for Venture Trust.
Annabelle was struggling with alcohol addiction, which was having a very negative impact on her life, when she was referred to us through her social worker. In June 2015 Annabelle enrolled on our Next Steps course, a programme specifically designed for women in the criminal justice system, funded by The Big Lottery and a number of other trusts and foundations.
It provided enough space away from her existing environment, for Annabelle to begin on the road to recovery and positive change. She has gone on to train as a Venture Trust mentor, helping those in a similar situation to herself, and sought help with both AA and Addaction. Annabelle also attended our Speak Up employability training sessions, volunteered, and enrolled on a further Venture Trust programme, Living Wild, in 2017.
Annabelle comments, "If someone had told me they could change the way I think and feel in five days, I would never have believed it ... until I became involved with Venture Trust. They helped me to learn that although alcohol took a lot from me, it didn’t mean my life was over. It gave me hope that I could recover, and be a responsible and worthwhile person in society. For this I cannot thank Venture Trust enough.”
Throughout the summer, Annabelle is swimming at her local pool in Duns, Berwickshire, clocking up 96 miles (154 km), 6,144 lengths of the pool, or the entire length of the River Tweed. To date, she is almost half way through and aims to complete in August. Annabelle is raising funds for Venture Trust and donations can be made online: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AnnabelleMcPherson
Amelia Morgan, Chief Executive Officer at Venture Trust, comments, “We are really overwhelmed by Annabelle’s determination to support others, and to take on this remarkable challenge for Venture Trust. She has already come a long way, both in her personal life, and in the pool, and she is an inspiration to anyone going through difficult times. On behalf of Venture Trust, thank you Annabelle!”
To find out more about our Next Steps programme, please click here.