CALA’s #Openingdoors graduate wins award

Congratulations to #Openingdooors graduate Shona Beveridge for winning the HTSI 2019 Youth Volunteer of the Year award!

Shona continues to volunteer at our out of school clubs alongside volunteering at her local Rainbows and as speaker and influencer for the Niemann-Pick UK Charity.

Shona is passionate about volunteering, especially for the Niemann-Pick UK charity. Last year Shona spoke at the 2018 conference where she shared her story of her own diagnosis of Niemann-Pick Type C.

At the age of 15 Shona was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C. This is a rare genetic condition that effects 1 in 110,000 people and which there is no current treatment or cure. Shona has courageously taken part in a medical trial for treatment which saw her travelling to Birmingham every fortnight for a spinal injection. However, this didn’t stop Shona completing her education at Millburn Academy, volunteering or achieving her Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award last summer!

Shona doesn’t see her condition as a disadvantage, she sees it as an opportunity. “If I didn’t have Niemann-Pick Type C I wouldn’t have been able to take part in the Rickshaw Challenge”. The 2017 Rickshaw Challenge saw Shona and the team cycle 500 miles and raise over £5,000,000 for Children In Need! 

Despite all of these incredible achievements Shona faces daily challenges as her mobility changes but she doesn’t let this stop her. When asked recently what she felt she was gaining by volunteering Shona said, “Volunteering has helped me grow in confidence, I’ve learned new things, met lots of new people, it’s made me feel useful and part of the community. I really love helping the children with their arts and crafts activities and organising games for them”. “Taking part in #Openingdoors helped me grow in confidence and I have built great relationships with all the children when I volunteer at the Out of School Club. Meeting regularly with Kirsty (Mentoring Support Officer) helped me to gain more skills and keep me on track! I have also completed online courses through CALA in Child Protection and Risk Assessment”.

We are all incredibly proud of Shona here at CALA and we are sure you will agree that she is truly an inspiration.

Click on the slides below to see a small glimpse of the celebrations at the event.

#Openingdoors at the Scottish Mentoring Network Awards

On Tuesday 6th of November, CALA Chief Executive Jaci Douglas, and Mentoring Support Officer Kirsty Hunter travelled to Edinburgh for the Scottish Mentoring Network Awards.

The awards are designed to acknowledge mentoring projects and individuals that have made a significant impact over the past year.

Jaci and Kirsty were there representing CALA’s #Openingdoors programme, which provides mentoring and guidance to young people aged 16-24 years who are interested in a career in Early Learning and Childcare.

#Openingdoors ended up winning not one, but two awards on the night. #Openingdoors received a ‘Highly Commended Project’ award, while Kirsty won a ‘Highly Commended Employee’ award. 

Kirsty said of the awards: 

These awards give the mentees the opportunity to feel part of something which is recognised and valued. It also assures their families, carers and our supportive partners that taking part in #Openingdoors is something positive and beneficial.” – Kirsty Hunter

What is #Openingdoors?

Over the past three years, #Openingdoors has mentored 72 young people into their chosen career path of working in Early Learning and Childcare. 

Here’s what two former #Openingdoors mentees had to say about the project: 

“I am now working in Social Care with young people from residential and secure units and I can honestly say I would not be in the position I am now or be in a career that I am truly passionate about, without the training and continued support I received from Kirsty at #Openingdoors”

“Kirsty helped me to do so many little things that turned out to be BIG things!

We talked about where I wanted to be and how I could get there. This helped me to believe in my own future and made me want to try – to put the effort in. Kirsty really listened to me and never pushed me too hard – she always made it fun!

“The little steps I started to take were huge! I started to interact with people more, to travel independently, to take responsibility for ‘adulting’ – filling in forms and finding certificates etc.”

Where can I learn more?

#OpeningDoors December Blog

It’s been another busy few weeks at #Openingdoors! We’ve had 4 festive graduations and a snowy trip West! We are nearing the end of #Openingdoors 3rd year in April and it has been the busiest one yet with 23 mentees so far! 2018 is going to be busy right from the start with more careers events and DYW projects – watch this space for other exciting news to come….

This was our sturdy CALA van (Betsy) and I carefully making our way to Gairloch High School and West Highland College last month to meet with 6 young people interested in a career in childcare. A very big thank you to Sid who carefully escorted me back up the glen behind his gritter lorry!

An Enormous…

To everyone within and out with CALA for their support in 2017. The support, encouragement and opportunity you provide our mentees is invaluable and we appreciate it incredibly.

Here’s what some of our 2017 mentees have to say about #OpeningDoors:

#OpeningDoors Update


Welcome to our last #Openingdoors blog of the summer where you find us half way through our 3rd year! How did that happen?! This has been our busiest summer yet and there are still so many exciting things to come this year!

od-blog-picIn June we were delighted to be invited by Holyrood Magazine to be part of their Developing the Early Years Workforce event. In preparation for the event some of our fantastic #Openingdoors graduates soon got to work creating video clips for the day that highlighted their unique journeys into a career in Childcare. A huge thank you to Hayley and Zoe for dedicating so much time to this, and to Cougar for all his patience editing the footage – here they are on the big screen!

Click here to read the full #OpeningDoors report [PDF] .

Team #Openingdoors head to Holyrood


There was great excitement this week at #Openingdoors as we headed down to Edinburgh to deliver a presentation all about #Openingdoors and it’s ‘innovative approach to developing the Early Learning and Childcare Workforce’.


We were delighted to be invited by Holyrood Magazine to be part of their Developing the Early Years Workforce event and join an incredible list of speakers, such as Professor Iram Siraj, Sue Palmer, Alison Cumming and many others. In preparation for the event some of our fantastic #Openingdoors graduates soon got to work creating video clips for the day that highlighted their unique journeys into a career in Childcare. A huge thank you to Hayley and Zoe for dedicating so much time to this, and to Cougar for all his patience editing the footage.

Our Modern Apprentice, and one of our #Openingdoors Youth Ambassadors, Rebecca, also prepared and delivered an inspiring speech detailing her experiences as a Youth Ambassador for #Openingdoors where she enjoys motivating young people by sharing her own story regarding achieving her goals through hard work and determination.


When asked what it was like to take part in the presentation Rebecca said:

This was my first time speaking at an event like this and I was really nervous. As an #Openingdoors Youth Ambassador I was able to calm my nerves knowing that I was the voice for a large number of #Openingdoors graduates and participants whose voices wouldn’t have been heard otherwise, so it was a huge honour attend on their behalf!


Our new Chief Executive, Jaci Douglas, introduced our presentation and gave an illuminating overview of Care and Learning Alliance and its commitment to empowering and supporting young people through the #Openingdoors programme. Jaci illustrated #Openingdoors’ key objectives and highlighted our dedication to providing young people with bespoke mentoring support that has real, tangible outcomes that are meaningful to each young person, so that they can begin their journey in accessing a career they feel truly passionate about.

We had such a fantastic and inspirational day with Holyrood Magazine, all the speakers and delegates – thank you again for having us!

What’s next……..

#Openingdoors is now progressing rapidly through its third year of provision where it continues to evolve and develop in response to the needs of young people wishing to access a career in childcare. Our geographical area has expanded for year 3 provision and we are now supporting young people in the Ullapool and surrounding areas alongside our inner Moray Firth cohort. We are also very excited to be taking part in CALA’s annual conference – ‘Workforce Development – Today’s Children are Tomorrow’s Future”. #itscala17

The story so far………..

By the end of year 2 (April 2017) 48 young people had taken part in #Openingdoors. 14 candidates have exited #Openingdoors directly into employment within the childcare sector, 7 candidates have exited into or maintained employment in another sector, 13 exited into or maintained college placements and 6 exited to focus on parenting their own families. 5 candidates continue to volunteer in the childcare sector, 2 candidates exited onto another employability programme and 1 candidate exited as she had to move out of area at short notice.

Please feel free to read our Year 2 report for further details.

Further Reading

#OpeningDoors project ‘highly commended’ by Scottish Social Services Awards


CALA’s #OpeningDoors project has been ‘highly commended’ by the Scottish Social Services Awards, for the fantastic work Kirsty Hunter does in mentoring and supporting young people as they embark on a career in childcare. If you’ve read Kirsty’s frequent #OpeningDoors blog posts, you’ll know she’s often on the road, promoting childcare careers to young people across Highland.

Learn more about #OpeningDoors:

Congratulations Kirsty on this well deserved recognition! 🙂

#OpeningDoors Blog – Hill of Fearn Primary School





Having trouble reading the text? Click here to download the newsletter as a PDF.

#Openingdoors Blog – Graduations Galore!


There has been a record 4 graduations in one week this week! Congratulations ladies! Meet three of the graduates, Kaitlin, Caroline and Morgan, below.


kaitlinHere’s our 1st graduate, Katilin. Kaitlin found out about #Openingdoors with her guidance teacher on the Hi-hope website and knew this was what she wanted to do. During our very first meeting Kaitlin enjoyed mapping out her individualised pathway into childcare and found the information and guidance through all the possible options really helpful.

Kaitlin decided her personal pathway would be to complete #Openingdoors then apply to college to study an NC. Kaitlin would use her experience of work placement and learning sessions throughout #Openingdoors to help prepare her for this. Kaitlin has completed her learning days with Kirsty at #Openingdoors and is now volunteering with Jayne and the team at Junior World following her placement there.

Kaitlin attend Junior World when she was younger and is really enjoying being back as a volunteer – with some of the staff who used to care for her! Well done Kaitlin your commitment, communication and talent has shone through throughout your time on Openingdoors – congratulations on your graduation!


morganMorgan has also graduated this week. Morgan has been volunteering with one of our parent toddler facilitators, Mairianne. Morgan has really enjoyed attending the weekly groups where she has been helping to provide fun activities, book bug sessions and healthy snack.

Morgan was interested in working with children as she has babysat for young children with additional needs in the past. However, Morgan had never taken part in anything like #Openingdoors before and was “nervous and sceptical”. Morgan has consistently received positive feedback following her voluntary sessions. “It was great to have Morgan supporting me at the group today. She arrived early and helped me set up and offered lots of practical help during the session.ozzie

Morgan has a wonderful manner with the children and her interactions with them are lovely to watch, we are delighted to have her!”. Morgan even took her pet rabbit Ozzie in to visit the children for the Easter fun session this week! Morgan is looking forward to gaining more experience with different age groups now that she has gained confidence and experience with Mairianne at the toddler groups. Morgan will be starting some holiday experience at Drakies OOSC in two weeks time – beginning with Science Day! Well done Morgan – your passion and commitment has shone through! I look forward to supporting you on the next part of your pathway!


carolinecaroline-gungeCaroline also graduated this week. Caroline had a great day for graduation as she was also volunteering at Muir Of Ord ELCC on Red Nose day! Here she is having great fun with the children and their families ‘gunking’ the lovey practitioners Donna and Laura where they raised a fabulous amount for charity.

Caroline is looking forward to her next step of applying for Staffbank where she will gain even more experience and skills in the Childcare sector. Caroline is also looking forward to volunteering over the holidays at Drakies OOSC on Harry Potter day! Well done Caroline – you did it!

Your commitment, despite being such a busy girl with college and Rainbows, has been brilliant! I hope you’ve had a much fun as the children you have worked with have had. 🙂

#Openingdoors blog for #Scotappweek17


#Openingdoors Mentoring Support Officer Kirsty has been very busy recently, attending four events in one day! Here’s Kirsty to explain more:

“Here’s a blog covering our record breaking day on Thursday at #OD where we completed 2 workshops, 1 group session and The Big App Event in one day!! Phew!!!! A fab way to celebrate #Scotappweek17. 

There’s some lovely pics of 2 of our fab CALA MA’s Nicole and Rebecca throughout the day, and Baby Kate of course!”

Download the latest #Openingdoors blog by clicking here [MS Word].

#Openingdoors Blog – February 2017

The following blog update comes from Kirsty Hunter, CALA Mentoring Support Officer:

It’s been a busy start to 2017 for #Openingdoors! Beginning with the fantastic news that we have been awarded funding from Young Start to deliver year 3! This is fantastic news with the built in excitement of expanding the project from the Inner Moray Firth area to now include parts of Wester Ross – Ullapool, Lochinver and Kinlochbervie here we come!

I had the opportunity to catch up with Yr 1 candidate Lynette last month and it was great to hear all her news future plans. Lynette exited #Openingdoors to study the NC Early Education and Childcare.

od-blog-postLynette says, “Openingdoors gave me the confidence to go to college. It was similar learning to college which meant when I started my course I wasn’t so overwhelmed by all the new theories and guidelines that there was to learn about as I had learned about them already. I am diabetic and taking part in Openingdoors gave me the confidence to travel independently and gain independent living skills. It also gave me the opportunity to work with others and gain and realise important skills like problem solving and time keeping”. It’s fantastic to see Lynette doing so well in her studies, all her hard work is paying off! Well done Lynette.

We have been very busy attending various career and jobs events. Darren from Staffbank has joined us and we have been spreading the word about all the fantastic opportunities there are to be mentored, work and train within CALA. We were joined by our newest and prettiest member of the promotional team – Baby Kate! Donated by our finance manager’s talented mum, with an exquisite knitted wardrobe, Baby Kate has been delighting everyone with her happy face and beautiful dresses! (see below for pics)



New Graduates!


We have also seen our first two graduates of 2017 – Shelley Watt and Annemarie Dowie – well done girls! Both girls have worked really hard to achieve their goals and we look forward to seeing them in the future as they pursue their careers in childcare! A big thank you to teams at Evanton and St John’s Nursery for having them on placement 🙂