Project helps deprived to thrive

11th November 2011 at 00:00
It's early days for a gruelling adventure and personal training programme, but it is already changing participants' lives. Elizabeth Buie reports

A week on the ocean waves has been the culmination of a two-month journey for 10 youngsters from one of Edinburgh's most deprived communities, Muirhouse.

They have completed Project Northern Lights, a challenging adventure and personal training programme to help disadvantaged young people to shine.

The pilot programme, supporting the Muirhouse Youth Development Group (MYDG), involved three physically gruelling stages: instruction in personal training, coaching and teamwork; an intensive course in outdoor survival skills and fitness; and a week-long sail-training voyage around the west coast with Ocean Youth Trust Scotland on the Alba Venturer, a 70- foot sailing ketch.

The participants will now continue to receive support from MYDG and be able to pursue coaching qualifications in outdoor activities including cycling, bike mechanics, first aid, football and swimming.

Led by WildFox Events, a UK adventure challenge company with a base in Perthshire, Project Northern Lights aims to build the skills, experience and confidence of young people aged 12-25 who have no formal qualifications and turbulent, chaotic lifestyles. Among the challenges they faced were wilderness camping, shelter building and skinning rabbits for food to survive.

Ian Wilson, aged 16, one of the 10 from the original 12 who completed the programme, said: "This is something that everybody should go out and experience. It's really beneficial for young people - it has really changed my life. It has given us hope, strength and togetherness."

Jonny Kinross a development worker with MYDG, added: "Our justice system can't solve the problems of crime and anti-social behaviour by itself. It requires grassroots reinforcement through positive action, so that Scotland's young people can become valued members of their communities."

The success of the pilot project, which was funded by the Artemis Charitable Foundation and recruitment firm Finlayson Wagner Black, means the programme may be extended to 45 young people next year.

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