Findhorn-based Ecologia Youth Trust celebrates 25 years of supporting disadvantaged children around the world
Get a digital copy of the Forres Gazette delivered straight to your inbox every week
A FINDHORN-based charity is marking 25 years of supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged children around the world.
The Ecologia Youth Trust, which offers young people family support and access to education, as well as confidence, skills and resources that will help shape their future, is celebrating by gathering stories from some of the people who have benefited from their support.
Founder and director of international projects, Liza Hollingshead, confirmed the stories stories can be read at www.ecologia.org.uk
She said: "It is thrilling to look back and celebrate all the ways we have helped children and young people to realise their potential. We have supported their organisations to become self-reliant and created new partnerships that will make long-lasting changes to lives.
"From Scotland to Thailand and Myanmar, from Kenya and Uganda to Russia all of our partners are committed to the health and well-being of the children and young people in their care."
Ecologia's Scottish 'Growing2gether' programmes connect young people to their communities as mentors to children in need of extra support and through youth-led community projects. This programme has operated in 11 Highland schools and benefited 842 children.
Ecologia's international projects - currently in Russia, Uganda and Kenya - support disadvantaged young people and children through partnerships with local grassroots organisations.
Liza founded Ecologia Youth Trust in 1995 after years of organising citizen diplomacy tours and youth exchanges to Russia.
Two years earlier, she met the founder of Kitezh Children's Community of Foster Families, an organisation which focuses on taking children out of orphanages and raising them. Liza was so impressed that she established a charity to assist them and they built two community villages with help from the Big Lottery Fund International and other donors and funds.
After the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, Ecologia Youth Trust expanded its work to include Thailand, helping Burmese migrant workers and supporting young people develop environmental project 'We Love Inle Lake'.
African projects followed, including supporting a school for children with HIV/AIDS in Uganda and an organisation in Kenya empowering young women to learn skills to enable them to support themselves and their children.
Ecologia Youth Trust now employs 12 people, nine of whom are engaged as facilitators and youth workers with the Growing2gether programme that operates mostly in Highland schools.
Three employees based in Findhorn run the international programmes in Russia, Kenya and Uganda.
Project development office, Robyn Cooper, added: "Over the last 25 years, we have helped over 504,600 children and young people."
These have included 'Milly' whose school encouraged her to take part in Growing2gether because she was getting into trouble and unable to engage with her work.
Initially, when asked what she thought about a subject, she would shrug her shoulders.
She told Ecolgia: "Social workers are always trying to get me to talk about things... I don’t want to…it makes me feel bad."
Milly took part in the programme's nursery experience and was fun, kind, patient and empathic with the children who showed her displays of affection. The staff also valued her presence.
One week, another programme group member talked about the difficulties she was having with her parents who were drug addicts. This helped Milly open up and she talked about her alcoholic parents which was a turning point in her life.