An inspiring journey
When Cassie began to work with Venture Trust, she feared to face the world.
Diagnosed with depression and anxiety, she fell into a deeper darkness when she was then domestically abused by her partner at the time.
“I went downhill. I started to drink excessively and use drugs daily to numb the pain. Everybody noticed that the happy bubbly girl who always had a smile on her face was now long gone,” Cassie reflects.
She lost her job and experienced severe anxiety and panic attacks. Cassie was unable to function like the young woman she had been before.
Last month, that same young woman who hid from the world stood up in front of 600 people to tell her inspiring story about how she got her “life back”.
Cassie, 23, opened the EUROPARC 2018 conference – the largest gathering of protected area professionals in Europe. This year, the annual event was held in Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park and brought together hundreds of park authorities, nature reserve staff and conservation professionals from up 36 European countries.
Her speech and performance drew praise from the international audience and was hailed “inspirational” and “courageous” by Government Ministers, Local Authorities and leading figures and authorities in National Park and outdoor fields.
Tying in nicely with Scotland’s Year of Young People, this year’s EUROPARC theme, Inspired by the Next Generation, informed many of the talks, panels and workshops of the conference event but more importantly brought an open invitation to young people to come along and join the conversation with discounted rates to try and reduce the barriers to attend.
Cassie’s key note speech focussed on her journey with Venture Trust’s Inspiring Young Futures programme. The programme, funded by Scottish Government, Inspiring Scotland, the European Social Fund and The Big Lottery Fund, is designed for young people experiencing challenging life circumstances who want to make positive life changes. Those circumstances might include involvement in offending, anti-social behaviour, history of substance misuse, homelessness or poor family relationships.
Participants benefit from a dedicated one-to-one worker before and after embarking on an eight-day wilderness journey in Scotland. Ongoing support enables participants to consolidate their new skills, boost confidence, motivation and aspirations, and benefit from opportunities in education, employment and training.
Cassie shared what her wilderness journey – coincidentally in the Cairngorms – meant for her to the gathering of outdoor professionals:
“A lot of outdoor people take [the wilderness] for granted! But for me and the other young people in my group, we have never been camping or even out in nature like this. Having the opportunity to experience the wildlife and nature the way I did really helped me change my life around. You’re away from the distractions of your everyday life, you can focus on your own development and the challenges you face test your resilience, mental strength and physical strength.
“It was here in the Cairngorms that I realised I wanted to help people that have been in similar situations to myself to give them a chance to experience what I did.”
Cassie’s experiences with Venture Trust made possible by funding from Inspiring Scotland and the 1419 Fund have shaped her future. She is pursuing a career within the care field. After graduating from Edinburgh College with a first level qualification in Community Learning and Development, Cassie is now applying for a trainee youth worker job.