Growing2gether Stories

Growing2gether Stories

Growing2gether is currently our largest project. To know more click here

Read here a facilitator’s story of Milly, an energetic young person whose connection to her Growing2gether group has helped her find a new direction… 

(Names changed for confidentiality reasons. Photos do not correspond to the story) 

Milly’s school was very keen for her to join Growing2gether, as she was “getting into trouble and unable to focus or engage with school work”.  On meeting Milly, she was chatty, smiling, and generally interested in what the programme was about. 

 I’m just glad to get out of lessons….I hate school!” 

At the start she was quite quiet in the group except for talking over other people. When asked what she thought about a subject, she would shrug her shoulders and say she didn’t know.  

In her journal she wrote “I didn’t like it at first. I didn’t want to tell people about my life.”  And in the group she said, “Social workers are always trying to get me to talk about things… I don’t want to think about some things…it makes me feel bad.” 

Milly loved the nursery experience and the children loved her. She was full of fun, kind, patient and empathic. She has a natural warmth, so the children would involve her in their play and show Milly their delight by big displays of affection. The staff really liked Milly and valued her presence, praising her each week.     

One week, one of the others in the group told her story about when she was young and looking after her sister when both parents would be sleeping, as they were drug addicts. It was raw and shocking.  

Milly’s eyes filled up with tears and then she said, 

You should not have been treated like that … is terrible. When I have children, I will never let something like that happen. I know what you went through. I don’t like talking about it but my mum is an alcoholic …my dad too. I love them but they could not look after me properly. A child needs to be given food and have a normal life. I live with a foster carer now …I am not going to drink or do drugs. I will have a drink on an occasion like a wedding but that’s all”

We all sat so still listening to Milly and then the others responded to her in very loving ways.   

This was a real turning point. In our group learning time Milly would suddenly say “I am doing that side talking again, aren’t I?”  Her interest in all the other group members changed and she began to listen and respond. She contributed to group discussion, no longer afraid to share her ideas.  

Milly said the other day, “ One of my teachers told me that I can’t focus for more than 10 minutes ……well she is wrong isn’t she? I think I am changing ‘cos I am enjoying doing this work.” 

When completing the Growing2gether portfolios, Milly’s motivation to achieve the qualification unleashed a young person who focused for 2 and a half hours and did not take the school break! 

Read here a facilitator’s story of Andrew, a powerful young person who thrived on responsibility in Ecologia’s Growing2gether programme… 

(Names changed for confidentiality reasons. Photos do not correspond to the story.) 

Andrew is a 14-year old boy who attends the local Academy in S3. He is very outspoken in his dealings with adults and staff at the school and has often been sent out of classes, been given detentions and a couple of exclusions for saying what he thinks. In our group discussions he often tried to monopolise the conversations. Andrew regularly talked about the fights he had been in and police involvement in the past. He looked for reassurance from his peers all the time. 

When he first joined the group, he was wary of whether he had made the right decision. He was very keen to voice his opinion and often came up with stories to see if he could shock us and how we would react. Three others of the group had gone through Primary School with him and he knew them well and felt secure in the group. He tried to take over the conversations at times, but he learnt to listen to the others too. 

He attended the same nursery and primary school we are partnered with. When we entered the nursery in week 2 he appeared slightly nervous, but this disappeared quite soon. He became very calm and sat himself on the floor amongst the children. Very quickly he made connections with them. He asked to mentor a young boy who struggled at times to cope when things didn’t go his way, when he had to share with others, or had been given an instruction. Andrew got to know this boy well over the following weeks. He showed a tremendous amount of patience, teaching him to cope with frustration and disappointments and regulating his emotions. He had to set boundaries and stick to them. He worked mainly on his own and even if the activities were monotonous and repetitive he stuck with it. We didn’t see the boy who needed to be in charge, talk back and take over, at all. 

Half way through the programme Andrew started talking about his time at Primary School. He mentioned he “ran” the school. He and his 2 friends were the bullies in P7 who were continuously in trouble. I strongly believe that getting very positive feedback from both the Head teacher and the nursery staff on a regular basis gave him a chance to give something back to the school now. He thrived on the respect he was shown, and people accepting that there has been a change in him. 

In school the guidance teacher has seen a massive change in him. He is less confrontational and more interested in his learning. And, he has been heavily involved in organising the junior dance, a massive achievement! 

It has been so much fun here at nursery with the little ones. I have learned so much and it has been a blast.” 

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susie Kemp

Susie has 30+ experience as a creative copywriter, editor, and proofreader, starting out as a 20-year-old copywriter in the Mad Men world of early 1990s advertising in South Africa. Ever since, she’s had a love affair with creative conceptualisation, thinking outside of the box, writing to a deadline, and being thrown in the deep end!

She took an MSc in Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University as a mature student, in 2015, and continues to keep herself busy working as a copy-editor, proofreader and copywriter in book publishing, corporate communications, and publishing project management.

Apart from her love of working with independent authors, Susie has a fondness for working in the third sector and likes to use her corporate communications and marketing experience to support projects close to her heart. She has lived and worked in the Findhorn area for 25 years, and has been involved in a number of third sector projects and organisations, and family businesses.

Working at Ecologia Youth Trust helps Susie to live in integrity with her values of supporting the next generation to be the best that they can be, and she sees it as a way to give back to Mama Africa, the beloved continent on which she was born.

Ellen Shaw

Ellen joined the Ecologia team in June 2018 as Marketing and Communications Manager. Ellen has lived in Scotland for 6 years and has worked for non-profit and charitable organisations across varied fields. She currently shares her passion for helping young people through Ecologia Youth Trust and she works as a dancer and dance teacher in her spare time.

Robyn Cooper

Robyn is the Associate Director of International Projects, having previously worked within the team as a Project Development and Marketing Officer from April 2019 until May 2021. As Associate Director, Robyn is co-leading the International side of Ecologia with Founder and Director, Liza Hollingshead, bringing a new energy into Ecologia as they look towards the future of the charity.

Liza Hollingshead

Liza is the founder of Ecologia and Director of International Projects. She was born and educated in South Africa and worked there as a high school teacher. She moved to live in the Findhorn Community in 1974. She started Ecologia in 1995 after being introduced to Dmitry Morozov, the founder of Kitezh Children’s Community in Russia, and was inspired to support the community in its mission to rescue orphaned children from institutions and give them homes, families and education in a supportive environment.

This led to projects supporting disadvantaged youth and children in South East Asia and in East Africa. TRead more about Liza’s story here.