Youthwork Week 2023! Ambassador Q&A

To wrap up Youthwork Week 2023, we’re speaking to our Ambassador, Ishbel.

In our Q&A, Ishbel tells us all about her experience as a VS Ambassador and what she’s been up to since finishing our programme. Ishbel graduated from the Journey in June 2022, after starting the programme during the pandemic. Fast forward to November 2023, Ishbel has been a VS Ambassador for 6 months and is already representing VS to our corporate partners, as well as in the youthwork community.

Ishbel, you’ve been a VS Ambassador role for 6 months, what 5 words would you use to sum up what it’s like to be a VS Ambassador?

Exciting, Supportive, Interesting, Collaborative, Invaluable

What’s your favourite part of your role and what do you find most challenging?

My favourite part is all the opportunities we get to share our opinions, our stories and how past experiences have shaped us, for the good of VS. This makes me feel like we are making a difference within VS, but also in the wider world and how VS is able to support people.

The most challenging part for me, ironically, is speaking in front of people and expressing said opinions and experiences. Although I am a lot better at this than I used to be at this, I still do find it scary and anxiety inducing. For many years I didn’t feel like I could have opinions or voice to express them, but VS have been so wonderful at encouraging me and listening and caring about what I am saying.

Since finishing the course, where have the skills and experience you learnt at VS taken you?

When I finished the course, I continued with my volunteering at Riding for the Disabled which I love and kept me socialising and getting out of the house. I also did some volunteering with a Duke of Edinburgh group of refugees, which was outside my comfort zone again, but being in the outdoors and doing outdoor activities made it more manageable. I, eventually, got a part-time job at Tesco, which I was really proud of. I couldn’t have imagined being able to hold down a job, especially a customer end role, but they were really supportive and helped me stick with it. It’s worth mentioning that life hasn’t been all smooth sailing since VS, but I am now better equipped to weather the storms, and come through more intact than before. I did a course where we gained an insight into the outdoor industry as a career, and explored different routes to gain more formal experience in the outdoors. Adding all these baby steps over the last few years together has allowed me to now be at college in Fort William studying Outdoor Leadership. It is amazing to look back on and see the change happening so gradually that I didn’t even notice is was happening, yet here we are.

How important is it to have the voice of Young People at every level of VS? What difference does it make to VS?

It is really important to have the voice of Young People at the heart of VS because the world is forever changing, and therefore the issues facing YP and what they need help with and the barriers facing them is also always developing. VS does a fantastic job of evolving with the input of young people to stay with the times and continue to provide relevant, life-changing support for young people. As Ambassador’s, we sit in on Board Meetings and are encouraged to ask questions and to even disagree, in order to gain a fuller perspective and get it right for young people. We also sit in on interviews for new members of staff which shows how just much Venture Scotland really value our opinions and wants to get the right fit for young people.

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

Firstly, it’s amazing that you are even considering taking that first step towards change. Maybe you can’t imagine a future at all right now, let alone a more positive and happy one, but I would still urge you to reach out (or ask someone to help you reach out) to Venture Scotland to have a chat. The team is so so lovely and you will be welcomed with open arms whenever you are in your journey. They will get to know you, and you’ll have the chance to get to know VS and see if it is the right fit for you. If you do decide the program is right for you, then my only advice would be to keep turning up. Change doesn’t happen overnight and it might be uncomfortable and difficult to forge a new path, but with time you will get there. You can do it!!!

What is your favourite memory of your time on the programme?

My favourite memory of VS has to be our bothy trips to Glen Etive. Everyone says it is a magic place and I didn’t believe them until I went myself, but it really is! 5 days in the most beautiful place, where you don’t see another soul apart from your group. The conversations that arise are incredible and really make you think and reflect on life.

What advice would you give to someone who was worried about the programme being based outdoors?

If you are worried about the programme being in the outdoors, you probably won’t be the only one feeling that. You are able to borrow all the equipment and gear to feel comfortable and warm in the unpredictable Scottish weather, and you will be supported the whole way through by the Venture Scotland team, and the rest of your group. Even in the torrential rain, you’d be surprised how many smiles there are and what a fantastic day you can still have. Although it can seem really scary at first, all the outdoor activities are really fun. But if there is something you aren’t comfortable doing, VS uses ‘challenge by choice’, so you have a say on what your goals and limits are, when you want to be pushed and when to celebrate where you are at today.

What is one thing you learnt at VS that will stick with you forever?

A walk around the block, a photograph of a sunset, stopping to notice a caterpillar… the little things really can have the biggest impact.