Video: Winston Churchill Fellows share life-changing experiences

Three Scottish fellows shared their experiences after travelling the world for new ideas to bring home to their communities.

Scottish recipients of the Churchill Fellowship grant gathered in Edinburgh to present their findings to an eager audience in the City Chambers.

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust funds remarkable research trips for everyday citizens with passionate ideas, so they may return with cutting-edge solutions and global ideas for their profession and community.

A total of eleven Scottish fellowships were awarded in the last year, irrespective of age, education or experience.

Former PM Sir Winston Churchill, in whose name the fellowship was started on the year of his death. Pic: PA

Chairman of the Memorial Trust, Jeremy Soames, is the grandson of former British wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, in whose memory the fellowships were created in 1965.

“We set the category and the subject matter” he explained, “and they set where they want to go, why they want to go there and what they want to do with that experience once they come back.

“The fellowship is open to people from all walks of life, from all parts of the UK and the only criteria we ask is that they be over the age of 18 and they own a British passport.”

“We always have a health category - or medical category - and that in particular has been very popular with Scottish Fellows over the years and has accounted for about one third of total Scottish Fellows that have undertaken the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust fellowship.

He commended Scotland for being the quickest to put its fellows’ research into action, compared with other regions of the UK.

In March, Nicola Sturgeon used National Care Day to announce 22-year-old Callum Lynch’s successful fellowship application.

Brought up in Glasgow’s care system, Callum’s journey will take him to Sweden and on to California to research global attitudes and best practice.

He proudly explained how the First Minister asked him to personally report his findings back to her as she plans a complete overhaul of the Scottish care system for young children.

Former PM Sir Winston Churchill, in whose name the fellowship was started on the year of his death. Pic: PA

“I feel very humbled as someone who’s gone through the Scottish care system and has come from a very disadvantaged background,” admitted Callum.

“I also feel very humbled and privileged that I get to go on that journey - that I’m the person who gets to go and listen to other young people who grow up in care.”

“I feel very hopeful that it will create meaningful change for young people in care that will fundamentally reduce the negative outcomes that they experience.

“I’m going to initially go to Sweden, where I’ve got a good chance of meeting the Prime Minister, who actually grew up in care.

“That’s a very interesting opportunity and I’m so hopeful that it happens.”

Callum was in Edinburgh to listen to presentations from three Scottish fellows from previous years, each with their own remarkable story.

A Churchill Fellow in 2014, Chaz Bonnar shared his emotional journey to the Hip Hop School of Arts in California to meet young people empowered through breakdance culture.

He said: “I travelled across America for eight weeks to learn the positive benefits of ‘breaking’ - the proper name for breakdance - hip hop culture and how that affects young people from deprived backgrounds.”

“I met a guy called David Alvarado - who also went by the name of MexOne.

“He was the last person on my fellowship that I met. He broke down for me the best way to organise events, the best way to carry yourself when approaching sponsors and how we can use hip hop to expand our communities.

“I learned a lot from him - he was a positive role model within our community worldwide. Unfortunately, he passed away last September so it’s someone that I hold very close to my heart.”

Ellie Griffiths works as a theatre performer for neuro-diverse audiences. Her fellowship took her to the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and the USA, studying international theatre production to improve autism-friendly performances for Theatre Scotland, National Autistic Society and Upfront Performance Network.

She explains how her fellowship changed her workflow for every performance that came after.

“For every project that I was doing from that point onwards,” she said, “I did a residency in a school for children with autism and we made a film.

”All I’d learned from my time in Australia fed into that in a really clear way, and now I run a network for people making this type of work.”

Marc Cairns’ journey took him across Turkey, The Balkans and Azerbaijan. His time away helped him discover methods for empowering young people to become active citizens.

He said: “There’s always lots of great work being delivered, not just in Scotland, but nationally and internationally, to ensure that young people’s voices are being heard.

“The ‘Year of the Young Person’ can provide a platform for young people who maybe have not yet had any opportunity to contribute to the activation of their voice.”

Other Scottish fellows include a nurse, an architect and a police sergeant and their issues range from climate change to early years intervention and low-energy homes.

Applications for a Churchill Fellowship reopen on April 27 and includes new categories; ‘Rural living: strengthening countryside communities’; ‘Suicide: prevention, intervention and postvention’ and ‘Emergency services: crisis prevention, response and recovery’.

For research trips embarking in 2019 and beyond, applications can be submitted here through the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust website until September 18.