Martin Davidson: Help disadvantaged kids look outward – it’s bound to help them reap benefits

The Outward Bound Trust Loch Eil Leap
The Outward Bound Trust Loch Eil Leap
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Life can be tough for young people but for some it is very tough indeed – for those with parents out of work or just getting by, for young people who have recently lost a parent, for young ­carers and those struggling with their emotional well-being, for young people in foster or kinship care. For some young people, life is complex, the future uncertain, and it is easy to see how they could benefit from support and a break from their daily challenges.

The Scotland’s Next Generation (SNG) project is designed to ­provide just such support. Selected ­participants, all disadvantaged young Scots, get to experience a 19-day ­outdoor adventure course, the Outward Bound Skills for Life Award, at our Loch Eil Centre in the Highlands.

Martin Davidson, director of The Outward Bound Trust in Scotland.

Martin Davidson, director of The Outward Bound Trust in Scotland.

The SNG project has been going for more than 10 years and is ­growing stronger each year, helping an increasing number of young people. Participants have a unique opportunity to change their mindset, acquire vital learning and employability skills and increase their confidence, self-belief, resilience and ambition.

Many participants not only face multiple barriers but have never experienced the benefits of spending extended time outdoors and participating in truly challenging activities. Some suffer from social anxiety, low self-esteem or communication ­difficulties. These young people ­desperately want to change gear, to be able to make new friends, do better in school and improve their chances of getting a job or going to university.

So, how do young people like these get onto a course when their circumstances mean they can’t afford it? The answer is sponsorship. Much of the project’s success is due to the generosity of our loyal donors who believe in the positive impact our work has on young people. Sponsors fund one or multiple participants and only through their generous support is it possible that, in 2019, 38 disadvantaged young Scots gained funding to complete the Skills for Life Award this summer.

One such sponsor is Rathbones Investment Management Edinburgh. Rathbones started as a family ­business in 1742, developing into the FTSE 250 company it is today. With a Quaker heritage, the company has always had responsible ownership at its core. Its employees are shareholders and the company holds dear the values of honesty, integrity and ­independence.

Rathbones played a significant part in the abolition of slavery and today is as committed to public service and ethical business practices as it was when it began. Every year Rathbone employees raise substantial amounts of money for charity as well as ­contributing their time to charitable and civic activities.

It is with this background that the Rathbone Foundation pledged to support young people on the SNG project for two years. Important to Rathbones was that their sponsorship would demonstrably benefit young people in Edinburgh.

They reported: “Fundamental to the funding is the ability for us to make a real difference to specific young people in the Edinburgh area. We could change a young person’s future who will then go on to make a real difference 10, 15, 20 years from now.”

Supporters receive feedback directly from their sponsored participants and have the opportunity to visit the centre for the end-of-course presentation event and hearing the amazing stories of participants. They include life-changing experiences, lifelong friendships forged, and youngsters gaining a deeper understanding of themselves. Importantly, participants realise that they have the ­potential to achieve much more than they thought possible. The impact on these young people is huge.

Daniel, a participant last year who claimed to be “a bit of an introvert” and who used to find “most social ­situations terrifying” explained after the award: “This has taught me that no matter how hard life can try to beat you up and knock you down you can still move forward and achieve whatever wild and curious dreams come into your mind.

“I am very grateful for the once in a lifetime opportunity which I ­never dreamt of because, if not for your ­generosity, my mum would have ­never been able to afford to send me.”

Another participant, Nadiya said: “What you [Outward Bound and my sponsor] have done will never be ­forgotten, it impacts my daily life and has made me a much happier person.

“I wish I could put into words how much this has helped me but it’s just not possible.”

Would you like to help disadvantaged young Scots achieve more than they think they can? Contact martin.davidson@outwardbound.org.uk or call 0141 413 0242 to explore becoming an SNG donor.

Martin Davidson, director of The Outward Bound Trust in Scotland.