“Making sure children are heard and encouraged”

Suzanne McGladdery joined Youth Adventure Trust as a Programme Volunteer 10 years ago, and is now one of our eight Trustees. Using her skills and experience as a Social Worker, Suzanne ensures our work always remains in line with our vision: to use outdoor adventure to empower vulnerable young people to fulfil their potential and lead positive lives in the future.

Suzanne shares what inspires her, what has challenged her the most, and answers the most important question: her favourite item of kit for an adventure!

What inspired you to join Youth Adventure Trust?

I became a volunteer for Youth Adventure Trust because as a Social Worker l was aware of how beneficial the camps could be for young people facing challenges. I was very excited to be involved because volunteering would give me the opportunity to be supporting and encouraging children. My Social Worker job had changed to being a Project Manager which meant that l was less involved in working directly with children. l also loved being outdoors and doing challenging activities. I was a volunteer on camps for 10 years before becoming a Trustee. During this time, I saw first-hand how the group experiences support young people towards realising their strengths and qualities, developing resilience, and seeing more positive possibilities for their future.  

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?

Feeling unheard as a child and not being expected to achieve much. This made me want to make sure children are heard and encouraged. I’ve also just co-written a book about my current work which was a huge challenge and took several years – it’s with the publishers and due to be in print later this year/early next year.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be someone who helped others, like Gladys Aylward or Florence Nightingale. I only heard about amazing black women like Mary Seacole, whose application to be an Army Nurse was refused, and who went on to set up a private hospital during the Crimean War under her own steam, once I was older. I didn’t know what form helping others would take until l went to college and found out that my love for sociology could lead to being a Social Worker. I have been a Social Worker for over 30 years and worked in the East End and South End of London, in child protection, hospitals, Courts, for the NSPCC, with Scotland Yard and in the field of fostering and adoption.

Favourite snack or drink while adventuring:

Dried mango – I discovered how it gives me a great surge of energy while doing the 10 Peaks Challenge in the Brecon Beacons: I was practically running up and down the last hill much to my team-mates’ surprise and consternation as l made them run too! A flask of Peppermint tea is also essential for me!

Best bit of kit while adventuring:

A sarong as it can be many things including a sheet, towel, scarf, skirt, bag, mosquito net etc! 

Favourite outdoor activity/game:

Dobble has been a favourite game of mine since l played it on a Forest Camp. You can play it anywhere that you have a flat surface to lay the cards down. l also love most adventure sports like snowboarding and mountain biking. I tried the unicycle on camp on the circus skills day, but never managed to master it, maybe that will be a future challenge…

When have you been most resilient?

When being a leader on a camp and feeling really tired and emotional on a particularly tough challenge. However, a young person whom I had been encouraging earlier in the day noticed that I was tired and said my words of encouragement back to me: it gave me the boost I needed. 

What would your superhero power be?

Being able to fly – I have always wanted to be able to fly, the nearest l came to this was a tandem skydive over Lake Taupo in New Zealand.