Thriving Survivors mindset for growth

Written by Martin Lucas

A slightly different type of case study. This one is driven by self-belief and unbelievable effort to solve a problem that was not being addressed in the world today: trauma.

Thriving Survivors is a charity that was the brainchild of Ashley Scotland, who I was inspired by when we first met in 2015. I then supported her from idea through to reality to securing three years of funding. I spent two years on the charity’s board, wrapping up at the start of 2018 once they had their plan set in place (more on this later).

For many people, we may have an idea or see a gap in the market but we don’t always take action, or we do but then give up when we encounter obstacles. Ashley is one of those rare breed of people who is driven to help people no matter the challenges.

Here is the charity’s journey in Ashley’s words:

Thriving Survivors, set up by Ashley Scotland, is a unique training and support service that enables people who have experienced a physical or emotional trauma to take control of their recovery and this ranges from ill health to bereavement to being a victim of crime. A survivor herself founder Ashley realised that the crucial support needed for her recovery was not readily available.

The recovery process Ashley developed the organisation from is Judith Herman’s 3 stage model of recovery : establishing safety; telling your story; and reintegrating into the community. After undergoing stages one and two, Ashley found that support for the third stage was not well addressed. This inspired her to act.

Following support from Firstport business advisor Brian McMillan to strengthen her business model, and £2700 funding from the Social Entrepreneurs Fund (SEF) Start It programme, she launched Thriving Survivors in April 2016. Thriving Survivors provide a unique service that delivers that much needed stage 3 support including providing training, volunteering and eventually employment opportunities.

In May 2016 the service ran its first group, which was fully subscribed. Several of the participants were subsequently trained by the programme to deliver similar sessions to give other survivors a second chance.

In July 2016 Ashley faced her fears and done a 164ft bungee jump to raise funds to run what would be her next programme.

2017 seen the organisation reach new heights. In February we became a registered Scottish charity and have since gone from strength to strength.

In March 2017, I was awarded £20,000 through the SEF Build It programme which enabled Thriving Survivors to dedicate the time and energy needed to grow and scale the organisation by Ashley with a full time salary in her role as Chief Executive for the year.

Since then Thriving Survivors has gone on to secured three years’ core funding from the Scottish Government for its innovative programmes. Funding gives the organisation the ability to deliver 10 Discovering Me programmes and 5 Bridge to Recovery Programmes across Greater Glasgow. The overall aim is to be supporting over 150 survivors in 2017 alone.

Thriving Survivors which has so far been run with a small team of volunteers are now in the process of increasing their team by taking on 5 new members of staff to assist with what has been a rapid growth for the organisation.

The funding in year one will allow Thriving Survivors to develop a peer to peer support group that will enable continued support and personal development for people who have taking part in Thriving Survivors programmes, whilst at the same time providing a training bursary for one of our volunteers and previous service users Donna Irvine as she gains her SCQF level 7 in developing community activities for developing and delivering this peer 2 peer group. It is then hoped that on completion Donna will move into paid employment within the organisation.

Thriving Survivors is about recognising barriers and trying removing them and the core funding received means that they are now in the process of setting up a creche facility available for all group members, meaning that our service is available to everyone without the worry of childcare.

Finally government funding will help the organisation to tackle the existing problem of people who slip through the net when they are in need of that extra support to move to the next stage of their recovery. Thriving survivors will do this by growing existing and develop new partnerships with other organisations to establish a lasting collaborative approach to supporting survivors of physical and emotional trauma.

2017 for Thriving Survivors was simply amazing, going from a small start up company to a thriving established charity in less than a year.

We deliver an array of services and activities that support people to reclaim their lives and take control of their own future and recovery.

Activities & courses created:

Discovering Me – 8 weeks

Bridge to Recovery – 5 weeks Possibility Pathways – 1 year

Thriving Survivors Volunteer Programme – (open)

Thriving Survivors Facilitator Programme – (2 years)

Experts 'n' Experience - Weekly.

Childcare is included

1 – 1 mentoring is also available


12 people have went onto further education.

7 people are in training programmes.

9 people in Full time employment.

6 people into part time employment

7 Volunteers

13 Discovering Me programmes to date.

117 sessions to date.

124 service users to date.

7 People accessing childcare .

The development of coping strategies has been achieved by 124 people to date. The discovering me programme is a journey of personal discovery and from the very 1st session people learn 5 different coping strategies as part of our mindfulness session.

Comments from participants include,

"Making me more aware of being in the moment"

"I am more able to enjoy my quality time and not feel guilty to own my time"

"A little bit relaxed"

"Relaxed Good"

"Only First week and getting to understand my own attitude and that of others to mindfulness" "The relaxation helped me this morning"

We have had many highs in the journey to 2018 but also a lot of challenging moments along the way, personally each one I have taken in my stride and seen it as just another opportunity to grow and learn as an individual. In terms of whats is next for Thriving Survivors, what has become clear is that the core programme is adaptable and we are now looking to make the programme suitable for a younger market.

We have grown exponentially in the past 6 months and it shows no signs of slowing down so for me self care will be key to keeping that momentum going. Watch out world Thriving Survivors is coming to an area near you before you know it!

We have big plans for this year and intended to continue getting our name out there and helping as many people as we can reach their full potential as we can.

Amazing right!

I personally will continue to support Thriving Survivors as needed and will be a voice for their service every time I see an opportunity to shout about them. In psychology, there is a lot of talk about grit, that unknown quantity that is determination. Ashley has faced many challenges and it would have been far easier to give up on multiple occasions. I’m grateful to have been able to play a part in helping her. The future is bright for trauma services; help is at hand and that’s wonderful when you consider it never existed before Ashley and Thriving Survivors.