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Student Volunteer wins Award for Community Work in Perth

               

A young person has won a prestigious award for transforming path access in the Perthshire area improving the health of many in the local community.

Bethany Paterson from Perth College UHI’s Moving On course has won the Path Skillz Young Person of the Year at the 2020 Paths for All Volunteer Awards.

Moving On is targeted at young people requiring a supported transition into further education or work. The course took on the task of clearing Old Gallows Road to Huntingtower path, on the west side of Perth, in which Bethany shone.

Bethany’s lecturer, Caroline Cowe, said: “The Moving On course is designed for young people requiring support while facing challenging transitions. As part of the course, we worked towards the Duke of Edinburgh Award. As part of the volunteering, we got involved with Paths for All.

“There was a rural walkway nearby that we cleared up. It took a lot of planning beforehand to see how to do it correctly. In a group of between six and eight we cut it all down and tidied the whole thing up.

“What was great for the young people was the fact that dog walkers who know the path would comment on how much better it looked every time they walked past. This was really rewarding for the young people because they felt like they were really making a difference.

“I sent Paths for All a report of how beneficial the project had been. The young people all had a new appreciation for the outdoors and for teamwork, they really came together as a group not just with each other but with the lecturers as well. All being there together levelled the playing field and they felt like they could open up to us. Just mentally there was such a positive shift.

“You could see the change in everyone’s self-esteem. Even in their body language alone. They were laughing and having fun. Just being teenagers. They’ve also got a new appreciation for the outdoors and there were times they just wanted to stay and look around.”

Bethany motivated her peers and showed real leadership in coordinating the project and has since used this positive experience to apply for a practical course at the college. In which she was accepted.

Caroline said: “Bethany is an absolute grafter. She had on the full kit – waterproofs, goggles, and a helmet. She worked her socks off. Within the group, Bethany led by example. When people weren’t enthusiastic, she encouraged everyone to get involved.

“Bethany motivated everyone with a big grin on her face. She’s really excellent at practical learning. She has an almost photographic memory the way she’s learned to adapt and memorise how to do things.

“The confidence Bethany has gained from being a leader during the project was that extra push she needed to apply for a practical course at college. She was successful in her application and had her induction recently. She’s sticking with the course and starting this month!

“In the future we’re hoping to take ownership on this path and continue with the project throughout next year.”

The Perth student was commended at the first ever Paths for All virtual awards ceremony hosted by BBC’s Scotland’s Fiona Stalker on November 4.

Bethany was among 13 different winners at the 11th annual volunteers awards.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, said: “Spending time walking in nature has been a lifesaver for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been truly inspiring to learn about the work the volunteers have done improving their local path network for their local community. This is an invaluable contribution to improving the nation’s physical, mental and social health.”

Ian Findlay CBE, Chief Officer at Paths for All, said: “Getting outside and going for a walk has been even more important than normal over the last few months for our physical and mental wellbeing.

“The invaluable work of volunteers’ in improving the nation’s physical, mental and social health is amazing, and even though we can’t host our usual Volunteer Award event, we still wanted to celebrate the fantastic work that is happening up and down the country.

 “Volunteers, like Bethany have carried out tremendous work and adapted their work during the Covid-19 pandemic to reflect the changing needs of the Scottish public and for that we have to say a massive thank you.

“Their stories are always inspiring – and this year seems that little more exceptional.”

Paths for All works with the Scottish Government and 30 partners to support and deliver national policies, such as the National Walking Strategy and other ‘active travel’ initiatives.

The charity awards thousands of pounds worth of grants to worthwhile projects that improve health, promote walking and improve environments for people to be active in.

To find out more about Paths for All’s Paths Skillz project for young people visit: https://www.pathsforall.org.uk/path-skillz-training

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