A youth worker has heaped praise on a team of volunteers from a Moray orienteering club for their work in helping promote a fun activity for the Elgin Youth Café – and helping them to raise much need funding for a great cause.
Donna Breen works with the Café’s young members with an eye on promoting health and fitness and to that end was delighted when they had a visit from Scottish Orienteering’s regional development officer for Moray, Mike Rodgers.
That led to an invitation being accepted by experienced orienteers Andrew and Kathryn Barr to give a talk at the Café at the start of ‘Inspiration Week’ on March 23, as well as a talk via Skype the next evening from Paralympian Karen Darke, who is a Scottish Orienteering Patron.
Donna said: “We are all looking forward to being inspired by Andrew and Kathryn letting us know how they rose from orienteering in the school playgrounds and local woods to stardom with Team GB.”
It was during the planning for that visit that Donna learned of the work being undertaken around Moray – partly growing from the Scottish 6 Days orienteering events held in the region two years ago, and partly in the build-up to Moray and the Highlands once again becoming the focus of the World Orienteering Championships this summer.
Donna said: “While we were chatting with Mike we heard that there were some spare maps left over from Moravian Orienteering Club’s Saturday League event at Lhanbryde. We decided to set up a youth development project where Mike would teach a group of us some event management skills using a sport that has such a strong health-promoting image.”
That project led to Café members and others arriving at Lhanbryde School last Friday to take part in a unique evening orienteering challenge – in the dark! Those taking part were tasked with finding their way around the course with proceeds from the event going towards Garmouth motor neurone disease sufferer Lucy Lintott’s bid to raise £100,000 for the MND charity.
Donna explained: “When Mike came along for our training night we made some sketch maps of the Youth Café to have an indoors event. We learned how to set up a network to run the event using specialist event software, held some races which were huge fun, and then we went through the risk assessment for last night’s event.
“It was a great learning process for our young people to discover how something as seemingly precarious as sending children to run around in a forest at the dead of night can be done in a safe and controlled manner if the right safeguards are put in place.
“The idea about the charity fundraiser came the day after we first thought about doing all this stuff. Lucy Lintott, from Garmouth, is known to a many of us at EYC, and we are all inspired by her determination to raise £100,000 towards motor neurone disease which she was diagnosed with in November 2013 at the age of only 19.
“We saw that she’d just past £50,000 and wanted to help her on her way to achieving her ultimate goal.
“What we never expected was the huge amount of publicity that this would result in. We were nervous that the event was going to turn in to a snowball rolling down hill, with the value as a youth development project being overtaking by having to cope with the masses!
“We were so grateful to David Ritchie of Moravian Digital Press who stayed late after work on Thursday night to print a load of extra maps “just in case”. David had been printing all our Inspiration Week flyers and posters from his workshop near the bowling alley. This meant that whatever happened, we would have enough to cope.”
Donna admitted that she did have fears over the time they had to organise the event and the number of people who might turn out – but she need not have worried.
“The turnout was just right – there were enough people to raise a worthwhile sum of £200) but not too many to cause the youngsters to rush things.
“By being able to deal with people in slow time, and get the IT right, we were able to develop our people-facing and IT skills at just the right pace.
“We are so grateful for the Moravian members who lent a hand without being asked. Scott Hamilton and Neil McLean helped us set up while waiting for it to get dark enough to set out on the course, while Ken Anderson stayed behind to help bring in the control stations from the woods. We loved chatting to their members who were all so friendly!”
Now Donna is looking forward to further joint events with the Moray orienteering community – and those who enjoy the sport from much farther afield: “Elgin Youth Café will be involved with the World Orienteering Championships this August as part of the volunteer team – and we can’t wait.
“By then we will be experts at organising orienteering so we’re going to do another “Lucy’s Fight for the Night” in the autumn after the clocks go back – a ‘rematch’ if you like.”
Further information on ‘Inspiration Week’ events being organised by the Elgin Youth Café can be found online.