David Anderson and Red Thistle Farm

Hi, my name is David, I am a WC?S member and part of the National Representative Body – The Collective. Today I’d like to talk about success. Why? Because often it seems as if the words used to describe and talk about people who are or have experienced care are associated with negative connotations.  

Whilst it is right that we use words such as trauma to inform people of what is or has been experienced, there are too many positive stories that go untold. I firmly believe that we are more than the prevailing narrative. We all have it in us to enjoy success. Sometimes, we need support to get there, but always, always, it is the individual who makes it happen. Ultimately, it will be you who makes the choices to arrive at that success! 

Sometimes, when you have been told that you are ‘problematic’, ‘difficult’, ‘can’t manage your behaviour’, you can take this on (sometimes even without thinking) and carry it into your teenage and adult life. I did. It took me some time (too long) to realise that I wasn’t that difficult kid I was told about and I was actually someone who could experience all the successes and failures of life just as anyone else could. We are not defined by others (or the words in any report). Once we understand what drives our behaviour, we can alter our actions to give us a better chance of realising our dreams and wishes. That doesn’t mean to say it is easy or that you will always arrive at where you want to be, but it will certainly increase the chance that you will, and you’ll certainly feel better about yourself for trying. 

I have experience of being looked after at home, informal kinship care, private children’s homes, residential centres, secure care, homelessness, and prison. I have also worked in a homeless hostel, community and residential settings for young people experiencing care, as a social worker and taught social care students. The journey towards my successes has not always been easy, but it has certainly been worthwhile. The learning and personal development I have achieved is possible for everyone. I am 100% sure that each and every young person can go on to achieve success in whichever roles they inhabit if they are given the right support to see themselves as good, worthy, and capable individuals. Whatever it is, from roller-skating to writing, gardening to geometry, cooking to childcare, success is attainable for all of us. 

Recently, I have opened a type of educational farm in France. Soon after we met, my wife and I realised that we had a shared passion for working with people, animals and nature. We decided to create a place people could come and spend time with the animals who stay with us – we have, horses, donkeys, dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, guinea pigs, quails and plan to get more!  

Our home is where we want to work. We have two small children who help us and we have recently opened our doors to a young person who now lives with us. We offer animal mediation, equi-therapy, support with education, language courses and more. It is all based on the premise that the mixture of people, animals, nature in this beautiful place can create a positive time for those who come to experience it. And of course, love, equality and respect are central to everything we do! Our project is called ‘Les Chemins de Run Askol’, which basically means – The pathways of red thistle farm. 

If there is one thing I have learnt and had reinforced by my time volunteering with WC?S, it is that if you do things with love then you usually feel good, and if you find something you love to do then that becomes, not just a job, but a real pleasure to do. So, even though my life is often full of (animal) poo, I have never been happier! I encourage everyone to try and think of what it is that makes them happy and then try to make that the thing they do. Whatever it is you do, try to do it with love in your heart – we reap the benefits if we do. 

Finally, we have always planned to offer a free space to someone from the WC?S community, so watch this space for info… 

With thanks to Scottish Local Authorities, funding partners and donors who make our work possible.