Memories, Munros and Midges: The Making of Scotland’s Next Generation

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Written by The Trust's Director of Scotland and Innovation, Martin Davidson

The Skills for Life Award is the pinnacle of Outward Bound courses engaging participants in significant levels of adventure resulting in often life changing development of personal and interpersonal skills and confidence. Scotland's Next Generation is funded by generous donations from a small group of individuals, companies, trusts and foundations. In most cases a SNG donor funds a young person to have the unique opportunity to participate in the Skills for Life Award. For many participants just the thought of travelling to the middle of the Highlands and staying away from home with a group of strangers for 19 days is a very daunting prospect which is why we offer additional support through a mentoring scheme.

Retired teacher Sheila MacKenzie from Glasgow has a lifelong passion for supporting young people and for the benefits of being in wilderness environments. Sheila has been a SNG mentor for the past two years working with inner city young Scots to help prepare them organisationally and emotionally for their Outward Bound programme. She shared with me recently why she helps us: “It’s the joy of seeing young people connect with the outdoors and go on a journey of self-discovery, adventure and more importantly have fun in the learning process.”

Sixteen year old Shawn Burton is starting Dumfries College shortly and was funded through the Scotland’s Next Generation project to take part in the Skills for Life Award, which he successfully completed this August.  Shawn talked about his experience a day before the end of his adventure explaining: “When a new opportunity comes I’ve always been a bit weary in case it is this going to be bad and I’ve always been a bit anxious and I didn’t want to try. But then I learnt on this programme that if you do that then you’ll never learn anything, so you always have to give everything a go.” 

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Shawn was put into the Cameron Clan during his summer adventure along with 11 other young people. With bright eyes and a wide smile he explained that the long hikes, mental and physical challenges and even the midges he experienced with his fellow clan members were all part of the process for change and growth. He sums up: “The Skills for Life Award has brought the best out of me as a person and as a team member. It has taught me the skills that can be transferred into everyday life.”

Cara Murie, aged 17 from Edinburgh also took part in Award at the same time as Shawn and describes her experience as part of the Stuart Clan as life changing. Cara explains: “The Cara that walked in 3 weeks ago was absolutely terrified to get on the bus to even come here.  I came here with little confidence thinking ‘oh what if I’m stuck with people I don’t like or what if I don’t fit in’. Outward Bound has created so many memories and has allowed me to bring out the best version of me, along with overcoming fears, obstacles and challenges that were faced by my teammates and me. Being here has really just made me realise that I can now go in to any scenario and I can be myself and be accepted for that, and that everyone is different and that that’s a good thing to be. It has made me a stronger and more independent and better person, in which I now feel comfortable to face any challenges that might lay ahead.”

Proven Lasting Impact:

In spring this year we released The Outward Bound Trust’s fourth Social Impact Report. Within the report evidence of the impact of the Skills for Life Award was gathered and analysed using rigorous statistical methods by an external research company called Get the Data. Participants completed questionnaires before and after their Skills for Life Award and twice again six and 12 months afterwards. Those taking part recorded sustained improvements in resilience, time management, leadership and communication twelve months on, and female participants also recorded sustained improvements in emotional control and confidence twelve months on.

Signing off with some final words from Cara: “Outward Bound Loch Eil is just an amazing place and I wouldn’t change it for the world, if anything I’d change the length of the Award and make it longer!”

If you’d like to explore the opportunities to be become a Scotland’s Next Generation donor or mentor please contact: martin.davidson@outwardbound.org.uk or call 0141 413 0242

This article was first published in The Scotsman on 20 September 2017.