Youngsters in saddle for outdoor training

Northern Lights participants Andy White, Callum Allardyce and Brett Wright watch Ian Wilson at Glentress Forest mountain biking centre near Peebles

Northern Lights participants Andy White, Callum Allardyce and Brett Wright watch Ian Wilson at Glentress Forest mountain biking centre near Peebles

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So far, their lives have been far from plain sailing.

But a group of disadvantaged young people from north Edinburgh are being handed the opportunity to sidestep a life blighted by crime and head off on the high seas.

It is all part of Project Northern Lights, a scheme launched by The Muirhouse Youth Development Group (MYDG).

The pilot project will see a group of young people aged 15 to 25 embark on an eight-week adventure and personal training programme, culminating in a voyage around the west coast of Scotland in October.

The project aims to build the skills, experience and confidence of young people who have no formal qualifications and live “chaotic” lifestyles.

Jonny Ross, development worker for MYDG, said: “The overall aim for us is to make sure that after the course, the youths will be much more opportunity-ready.

“They will be up and out of bed in the morning, be able to work as a team and respond to jibes without getting defensive.

“We want them to have the skills necessary for any line of work.

“And we really hope to get this – if not nationwide – then definitely Edinburgh-wide by next year.”

Mr Ross added the project had been named Northern Lights as it aims to give young people from the north of Edinburgh a “chance to shine”.

MYDG said the project, which has been funded by the Artemis Charitable Foundation and Finlayson Wagner Black, is being led by Wildfox Events.

The first stage of Project Northern Lights will see 12 youngsters develop self-discipline, communication and teamwork and problem solving skills. This will be followed by a residential survival course on which the participants will be put through their paces with activities including mountain biking, raft building and climbing – all under the watchful eye of ex-military personnel.

A selection of ten youngsters will then be taken on a week-long voyage by the Ocean Youth Trust Scotland.

After the event, MYDG will continue to offer ongoing support – including the chance to gain industry-recognised coaching qualifications in outdoor activities.

One of those taking part, eighteen-year-old Ian Wilson, from Muirhouse, said: “If it wasn’t for the project’s activities like mountain biking we would be most likely causing trouble and doing stupid stuff.

“It gives us something to concentrate on, we have to all stick together and it is a lot of fun.”

Marcus Glancy, 15, from Pilton, added: “This is keeping us out of trouble and in school.

“I wasn’t confident to start with but the project is building my confidence.”

dawn.morrison@edinburghnews.com

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