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Scotland's Young People Shine as Project Northern Lights returns

Muirhouse Youth Development Group (MYDG) will today [Friday 28 October] welcome home ten young people as they complete the final leg of Project Northern Lights – a challenging eight-week adventure and personal training programme established to help disadvantaged young people to shine.

Set up to help young people escape the relentless cycle of crime and punishment, Project Northern Lights is the latest example of businesses stepping up to support grassroots organisations in one of Scotland's most deprived communities in North Edinburgh.

The journey has involved three physically gruelling stages over the course of eight weeks: instruction in personal training, coaching and teamwork; an intensive course in outdoor survival skills and fitness; culminating in a week-long sail-training voyage around the west coast with Ocean Youth Trust Scotland.

"I'm the happiest man in the world," said Danny, 16, one of the young crew, after a turn on the helm of Alba Venturer, a 70' sailing ketch.

Another spoke of the difficulty putting problems at home and in the community behind him when he said: 'I really want to separate what's happening at home from being able to enjoy myself here, but it's really hard.'

Led by WildFox Events, Project Northern Lights aims to build the skills, experience and confidence of young people aged 12-25 who have no formal qualifications and who live turbulent and chaotic lifestyles. And with the young people involved having already faced wilderness camping, shelter building and skinning rabbits for food to survive, it's been no picnic.

Andy Wishart, Outdoor Education Instructor and volunteer First Mate for Ocean Youth Trust Scotland, commented: "This experience has been no holiday and has pushed these young people to their limits - both physically and emotionally. Those who made it this far have had to face great challenges but have, most importantly, learned that they can overcome these - they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"The young people who are finishing this programme are doing so with newfound confidence, resilience and armed with employable skills that will make a real difference to their lives and to their communities."

Jonny Kinross, Development Worker for MYDG, commented: "Our justice system can't solve the problems of crime and antisocial behaviour by itself. It requires grassroots reinforcement through positive action so that Scotland's young people can become valued members of their communities.

"This project is but a cog in the bigger wheel of our justice system that can turn these young peoples' lives around indefinitely. We have been overwhelmed by the success of the project and with the real changes we have witnessed in the young people involved and we look forward to rolling the project out again next year to help more disadvantaged young people in Scotland."

The success of the pilot project, which was funded by the Artemis Charitable Foundation and Finlayson Wagner Black and has received cross-party political backing from the SNP, Conservative and Scottish Green Parties, means it could to be rolled out on a larger scale in 2012, benefiting more than 45 young people.