Staff Q&A – VS’s Outreach and Support Worker, Sophia

Sophia! Tell us a bit about yourself. Have you always been an outdoorsy person?

I’m originally from a suburban area of New York State, just outside of New York City. The first time I came to Scotland was to visit universities. I visited Edinburgh mid-August, at the height of Fringe, and thought this sunny, happening city would be amazing to study in! Of course, it only took one winter to realise that Edinburgh isn’t like that all year round!

After graduating from my studies in Social Anthropology, I spent some time figuring out what I wanted to do next. I knew it had to involve people, be work that made a positive impact and, though I thought it would be quite an unlikely combination at the time, I really wanted to do something that integrated these interests with the outdoors. And, mid-pandemic, from my home in The States, I stumbled across my role advertisement at Venture Scotland. The rest is history!

Growing up  in the suburbs of New York City, we were never far from large areas of nature and state parks. I was really lucky to attend a school that had a massive emphasis on the importance of the outdoors so I spent much of my childhood out in the elements! While I love being outside and think there are so many benefits of being out in nature, before starting at my job in VS, I’d never gorge-walked, outdoor rock climbed, coasteered, weaselled, or stayed at a bothy. But no matter what activities you’ve done outdoors and what skills and experience you have, I believe the only qualification for being ‘outdoorsy’ is a love of nature…so yes, I guess I’ve always been outdoorsy!  

You’ve been with VS since 2020 – what do you like most about your role?

I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working with VS since September of 2020. As the outreach and support worker, one of my favourite parts of my role is meeting all the people who are interested in joining the programme. You never know who you will meet and no two meetings are the same. I am often blown away by people’s vulnerability, honesty and willingness to share their challenges and strengths. This makes my job dynamic, interesting, and fulfilling.

Venture Scotland believes that nature and the outdoors are key to maintaining and improving health and wellbeing – what do the outdoors mean to you?

The outdoors is where I feel my best and most ‘alive’! Whether it’s taking a dip in the Scottish sea or heading out to the Water of Leith for a quiet stroll among the trees, I never regret getting outside and my body and mental health always feel better for it!

What’s your favourite VS memory?

There are so many to choose from! One favourite memory was during a trip to Glen Etive in the summer, we wandered down to a stream and went for a dip! It was such an immersive way to experience the landscape and a great memory.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting the programme?

It can be really challenging to get started, to take the first step, and to think about facing fears and challenges on the programme. But we know that change and personal development only really happens outside of one’s comfort zone. So my advice would be: take it one step at a time, believe in yourself, and embrace the support from those around you. All of us at VS will be there to cheer you on, provide support and resources if you need it, celebrate your successes, and challenge you in a positive way.

If you could only take part in one more activity session with VS, what activity would it be and why?

It would probably be gorge walking, as it’s such a fun activity, and I don’t think I’d be able to access this activity easily outside of VS, so got to make the most of it!

What’s your favourite joke?

Oooo….that’s a tricky one. I don’t think I have a favourite, but this is one of the few jokes that sticks in my memory and that must be for a reason…so….

What’s black and white and  red all over?

  1. A zebra with a sunburn
  2. A newspaper
  3. An embarrassed penguin

If you said A, B, or C you got it!