Chris Meechan and Ashley McCallum

(Photograph) - Chris MeechanAged 20, above, in the second year of a three-year HNC course in mechanics, has been in and out of care since he was born, finding a long-term foster placement aged 12. He lives independently.

Chris left Braidfield High in Clydebank after S5 with eight Standard grades and three Intermediate 2s, but dropped out of college in Dumfries because he had difficulty settling into a work placement in an area where he didn't know anyone.

Of the Columba 1400 programme, he said: "I iked the activities. The word for the day was 'perseverance', so every time you solved a problem they gave you another to make you persevere to the end. When I went to college I was only going to do a year and get a job, but decided to do three years."

Ashley McCallum Aged 18, she is in the first year of a two-year HND course in business at Clydebank College. Ashley moved to West Dunbartonshire a year ago after spending three years in a children's home in Stornoway because she was being bullied at school and her parents could not cope with her depression.

She lives in supported lodgings.

Taking part in various activities, including a gruelling "search and rescue" exercise, helped raise Ashley's self-esteem. The Columba staff helped her gain confidence. She would not have gone to college without the C1400 experience in Skye, and would never have believed herself capable of studying and holding down a part-time job at the same time.

"I never thought I was capable of anything, but since I am back from Skye, I believe I'm capable of anything I put my mind to," she says.

Photograph: Tom Finnie

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