When he first stepped through the door at Barnardo’s Works a year ago, Cameron Maclellan could barely make eye contact with another soul.
Now, after 12 months of employment training and one-to-one advice from staff at the charity, the 17-year-old says his life has been transformed.
And yesterday, at a cold and blowy Queens Park Athletic Stadium in Inverness, he was one of 21 people – including Caley Thisle footballers Mark Ridgers and Gary Warren – running a 26.2-mile relay marathon to kickstart a fundraising drive in support of the service.
The charity was approached by local businessman Adam Crawford, 33, who aims to raise £3,000 for Barnardo’s Works by running the London Marathon in April. Mr Crawford works for Construction Property Recruitment in Inverness and has taken on young people from Barnardo’s in the past.
Barnardo’s Works Highlands and Islands supports young people into training and employment, matching them with companies across the region based on their skill sets to gain work experience.
Cameron said: “I have told a lot of my friends to come to Barnardo’s because they have helped me a lot.
“When I left school I was just sitting around the house. But the people at Barnardo’s have taught me how to just get along with people a bit better and have helped me understand more about jobs and the workplace.”
Cameron says he moved to Inverness two years ago but found settling in difficult and struggled to build confidence. When he left school, both his grandmother and mother pushed him to go to Skills Development Scotland who put him in touch with Barnardo’s Works.
He said that the charity’s four-week group training course was critical to his development. While on it, he learned about the importance of responsibility, teamwork, communication and health and safety in the workplace.
The youngster now has his own home and is on work placement at New Start Highland – which helps tackle unemployment and furnishes new homes to alleviate poverty – and he deals regularly with customers and helps take stock.
Cameron added: “The help of Barnardo’s has made a huge difference to my life. I am more able to just talk to people and I feel more comfortable in myself. I can see myself getting into retail work in the future.”
Peter Mulvey, business manager for Barnardo’s Works for the north of Scotland, said that at any one time they will be working with more than 200 young people between the ages of 16 and 24. The Barnardo’s team cover the Highlands and Moray.