Ewan Aitken: Small steps can lead to big change with someone to help share things through difficult times

Alex Neil, visits  FareShare Central and South East Scotland at the Cyrenians  depot in Jane Street, Leith.  Picture Ian Rutherford
Alex Neil, visits FareShare Central and South East Scotland at the Cyrenians depot in Jane Street, Leith. Picture Ian Rutherford
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It took me a while to get into the Olympics this time round, probably because of the controversy surrounding both the doping scandals and the disparity between the cost of putting it on in Brazil and the poverty so many Brazilians experience every day and will continue to do so after the Olympic circus has moved on.

Britain’s success has drawn me in. The sheer guts and determination required to get to the podium is inspirational – Mo Farah’s fall and rise is a great example.

I have been struck, too, by some of the more counter-intuitive factors behind our success. In particular the focus on all the competitors being part of Team GB, despite the fact that many of them are individual participants in their sport, not team members, and also the idea that the journey from also-ran to podium finish is made up of tiny, incremental steps of change and progress.

That latter approach has been the hallmark of the transformation of our medal haul from the embarrassing 36th place with one gold in 1996 to Team GB competing for a top three finish.

It’s a powerful message – change comes in little changes over a long time. It’s a model Cyrenians follow when journeying with those we 
serve.

The journey from tough reality to independent living can be long and arduous. It needs to manage times when no progress is made and accepting the time of transformation won’t be the same for everyone.

Moving from exclusion to inclusion, whether that’s from family, home, work or community, is ultimately an inner journey built of little steps and tiny victories

Many of those little steps happen because of the teams, the communities we build across Cyrenians, where the relationships that are the lifeblood of change and hope are created and nurtured.

One woman on an employability course said to me: “I have been out of work as a full-time carer for 20 years. I lost my confidence but now I believe I can get a job because you built a community round me.”

Another woman told me that “discovering that there were others on the same journey of recovery willing to spend time with me without judging me or trying to ‘solve’ my problem for me gave me the confidence to raise my head and look people in the eye once more”.

She’s been sober for two years now and now mentors others in the way she was once supported.

The folk we journey with may never win Olympic golds, but by taking small steps and people to share them with will mean their personal podium finishes seem much more achievable, each and every day.

Ewan Aitken is chief executive of the Cyrenians