Updated: Mar 9
When I set up my business back in 2021, I knew exactly the types of work I wanted to do; coaching, leadership development and speaking engagements, all supporting the development of leaders and helping them to build amazing teams. I expected that much of the work, especially in the early days, would come from financial services, given my background, but the hope was to get as much diversity in the first few years as possible, firstly because it's interesting to do different things and understand different sectors and their leadership challenges and secondly, because it would allow me to understand what I was really passionate about and pursue more work in those areas.
Something else that was very important to me when I set out and continues to be crucial now, was to make sure that I use my skills and experience to give back. I wanted to make sure that a portion of my time was spent in service of leaders and organisations who are doing valuable work but who wouldn't normally have the resources to bring in these types of skills and tools.
As a result, I was put in touch with Elaine Crichton at Inspiring Scotland, a venture philanthropy organisation who fund and support people making a difference in areas of need across Scotland and she connected me with a leader who had requested coaching. That relationship, with the amazing Gillian Kirkwood, began last January and over the last year I've been lucky enough to work with Gillian and learn all about the work that she does with Y Sort It, a youth project based in Clydebank.
The organisation operates two youth centres, providing dedicated youth friendly spaces with various weekly activities offered throughout West Dunbartonshire. They have an outreach bus and the very unique Carbeth hut, the Gillie Dhu, which provides an opportunity for young people and children to enjoy the outdoors located in the Carbeth Hutting Community in Stirlingshire.
The area in which they are situated is the third most deprived in Scotland and the support that Y Sort It are able to give the community is invaluable. After 13 months of coaching, carried out over Zoom, I finally had the chance this week to travel to Clydebank, meet Gillian face to face and see the facilities for myself, as well as meeting with the team and running a session with their leadership to spark their thinking on how they can work together even more effectively and make the very best use of one another's skills.
While we were there, we visited the Bonhill centre in time to see the after school club, where children can come to play and learn in a safe and supportive environment and it was such a lovely thing to see the kids streaming through the doors; loud, full of excitement and energy and excited to get stuck into their games and activities, before sitting down to a hot meal prepared by the chef, with their friends. This is all provided free of charge to the young people and their families. Young carers and care experienced young people also receive support through the project, helping them to make sense of and get some respite from the often challenging circumstances they find themselves in. A large number or the service users over the years have stayed involved as mentors to young people and even becoming staff and starting their journeys into careers in social work and other care professions.
Gillian knows the environment well because she grew up in the community and still lives nearby. She has experienced her own hardships and has deep empathy with the young people who come through their doors and the mutual care between Gillian, her staff and the young people are very evident when you spend time around them. She's dedicated her life to helping deliver better outcomes for young people impacted by poverty, addiction, trauma and many other challenges. I drove home from Clydebank feeling inspired and energised about the opportunities that exist to make a difference, even in small ways, and have huge admiration for the work of the Y Sort It team, fighting tooth and nail for funding and support to provide services that are desperately needed and which can change the course of these young peoples lives.
Another part of the visit was a chance to see the Ghillie Dhu, Y Sort It's very own hut in the Carbeth Hutting community. When Gillian first mentioned 'going to the hut' over a year ago, I was confused and when she explained the hutting community I was even more confused! You mean there are these sheds in the woods that people own and they go and stay in?! In short, that's exactly what happens, but the story behind it is absolutely fascinating! The website does it much more justice than I'll be able to, but effectively there are around 120 huts of varying sizes and ages, situated in beautiful woodland with their roots stretching back over a century and having impacted upon five generations. Do yourself a favour and have a look because I promise it'll amaze you!
Gillian's own family have been involved in the hutting community since its inception and as well as her own hut and her family's original hut, she has funded, designed and built a hut especially for Y Sort It, where they take groups of young people from their programmes out to experience the countryside and to get away. The visitors book there is heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure, with young people talking about how excited and thankful they've been just to experience fresh air, camaraderie or the chance for a peaceful night's sleep.
Maybe there's no lesson in today's blog, maybe this is just a chance to tell you about an amazing organisation that I'm privileged to be able to provide just a little bit of support to, but if there is one, it's about the value of community and investing just a little of your time and resources into making a positive impact on the lives of others. There are so many problems out there in need of solutions and I know how easy it is to be paralysed into inaction by the volume, but each person who reads this blog has skills and passion and capability that would be hugely valuable to organisations like Y Sort It.
Every little helps and I refuse to be slowed down by the worry that my small contribution won't be enough to make a meaningful difference. When that feeling comes to me, I'm reminded of the lyrics to Minor Threat's seminal In My Eyes
You tell me that I make no difference At least I'm fucking trying
What the fuck have you done?
Let it be a reminder to all of us that we matter and our contribution matters. And if you're able to support Y Sort It or any organisation local to you, in any way, I'd love to hear all about it!