When teenager Claudia James first attended the Galashiels Works! project aimed at helping young people in isolated rural areas find new opportunities and work, she was asked what her friends would say she was good at.
Sadly, Claudia’s reply to organisers was: “I have no friends.”
Since then, however, her determination to overcome her personal challenges and pursue new opportunities has proved inspirational and she has now been rewarded with the presentation of a major national award.
At a glittering ceremony in the Glasgow Hilton recently, Claudia, 17, was named Young Achiever of the Year.
It was Claudia’s completion of the Tomorrow’s People Galashiels Works! scheme, which is a 10-week programme helping unemployed young people in isolated rural areas in the Borders to find new opportunities and work, that proved the catalyst for real changes in her life.
Claudia had been estranged from her parents and began living alone at a young age. She was bullied at school and left education early. She then found herself unemployed and unsure of what to do next.
Mark Timmins, Tomorrow’s People team leader, told us how nervous Claudia had been at the start of the programme, adding: “But we ignited a spark of self-reliance through one-to-one support and by integrating Claudia into group tasks,” he explained.
“Every day we saw Claudia’s confidence increase and her self-esteem visibly grew.”
Claudia had an idea that she would like to work with animals and it became clear that this would be key in helping her to choose a future career.
Tomorrow’s People then introduced Claudia to volunteering at Borders Animal Welfare Rescue Centre.
The teenager has now been offered a coveted place on the national certificate course in animal care at Borders College and has also secured a job working at McDonalds.
And Mark added: “Claudia has created a sustained improvement in her life by focusing on her future prospects and has ended the programme with a job, a college place and the confidence to make these opportunities work.”
Claudia says Galashiels Works! was the best 10 weeks of her life: “I have ended up with a great job at McDonalds, where I am making new friends, and a place at college learning about animal care, which has always been my goal in life,” she said.
“Galashiels Works! was an inspiring, supportive and positive environment, and everybody there was kind and helped me to grow in confidence.
“They helped me with volunteering and were there to help sort out the issues in my life,” she added.
Tomorrow’s People has been operating in Scotland for all of its 30-year history and Galashiels Works! is open to people from Kelso, Peebles, Hawick and other locations throughout the Scottish Borders.