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Inverness-based charity Day1 to set up home at Fairways Business Park

By Alasdair Fraser

Hayley Gitsham and Corrin Henderson at the track.
Hayley Gitsham and Corrin Henderson at the track.

A MENTORING charity with a track record in transforming young lives has been given the green light to build its first proper base.

For 15 years, Inverness-based Day1 has built a reputation for excellence in helping “at-risk” children on the cusp of adulthood make better career and educational choices.

It has also hit the jackpot with a National Lottery youth start fund award of £50,000 for the next two years, enabling it to increase support from an average of 25-30 young people a year to around 40.

Through group and one-to-one sessions with trained volunteers, the service has provided valuable back-up to schools at no extra cost to Highland Council.

Throughout that time though, the charity has been run remotely from home and around the city.

The plan now is to create a purpose-built, £90,000 headquarters beside Inverness Kart Raceway at Fairways Business Park.

A soon-to-be-launched fundraising campaign will seek to draw support from the business community.

After receiving the go-ahead from planners, charity chief executive Corrin Henderson said: “The aim is to keep build costs down wherever possible. I see it as being somewhere of great appeal to young people, with glass walls and funky furniture.

“Basically, to be a success, it must be far removed from a classroom-type environment and somewhere they actually want to be.

“We will use it to deliver aspects of personal development, skills training and mentoring and we’ve incorporated a large workshop for project-based work such as kit-car building.

“We find we can help young people who are struggling at school or disengaged from education, with college at the moment seeming a step too far.

“They can come to us and get their hands dirty, and really enjoy and gain from the experience.”

Mentors meet each young person once a week for a year, with the coupling matched on common interests, hobbies and personality.

The majority of the charity’s target 14-17-year-olds then find employment, education places or training when leaving school. And after a successful pilot last year, it also helps P7 pupils struggling with preparations for the step up to secondary school.

Day1’s emphasis is on nurturing confidence, independence and self-worth, but it also provides qualifications with SVQ 4 and 5 level awards.

Income is generated from grants and donations, as well as through the popular go-kart track.

Mr Henderson’s hope is that a successful fundraising appeal could see building work completed by August or September this year.

He added: “We are very careful in how we spend our money, and we will be looking to attract people from within the community who are able to help us.

“We’ll ask people who believe in the work we do – and want to see more of it – to give us a call.”

Day1’s programme manager Hayley Gitsham explained how important the lottery grant would be.

“It is very unusual within the third sector, particularly with the large sums they have granted us, for this level of funding to be sustained for so long,” she said. “It is split over two years, with £30,000 for year one and £20,000 for year two, and will help us with an expansion to support roughly 30 per cent more young people than previously.

“The project is quite small-scale historically, but we think it is a very valuable project and the recognition from the lottery fund indicates they think so as well.

“The impact on the lives of individual young people can be quite profound with benefits to the wider community.”

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