CHILDREN growing up in Scotland’s most deprived communities are three times more likely to die before the age of 25. That was the shocking statistic unveiled by Scotland’s largest children’s charity last week, Aberlour. The charity is calling on Herald readers to help them reach more young people like Morgan. Johnny Hendry is a youth worker with the charity and describes her story.

Morgan started life in a difficult home. Today, she’s the first person in her family to go to university.

HeraldScotland:

 I first met this bright and articulate young woman when she was 11. Her family life was scarred by lots of challenges. As a toddler, Morgan had witnessed terrible violence. Those traumatic memories continue to haunt her.

Morgan has something about her – that was clear when my colleague Julie and I first met her. She has a spark — a desire to learn, to change her life. She didn’t want to be defined by where she came from, but where she was going. Still, life was tough. At school, Morgan was struggling.

Her teachers didn’t push her. They saw her family, and they saw trouble. Her friends started skipping class — swapping homework for drink and drugs. Morgan didn’t join in with that, but she started playing truant from school too.

Can you imagine how frustrated Morgan was feeling? She knew she wanted a different life. But she felt trapped by her friends, by school’s lack of belief in her, and by her role as a young carer for her mum.

Without me and my colleague Julie, she would have had nowhere to turn. Morgan needed to get away from a bad crowd and into a more supportive environment. The first step came with her decision to change schools. We were right there with her. We helped with her application, answered her questions and addressed her anxieties. Julie even put her name down as Morgan’s emergency contact on the school forms.

HeraldScotland:

Before long, Morgan was flourishing. She made new friends who loved learning, and her teachers joined us in recognising how bright she is. Now she’s overcome unimaginable obstacles to be a law student and is loving every minute of university.

Aberlour has been at Morgan’s side for eight years. That’s how long it takes to build up trust. We have to be there all the time — and that’s why we’ve embarked on this fundraising campaign because we need the public to stand with us and make a regular monthly gift to Aberlour to enable this support to continue to take place.

A monthly gift could also help avoid tragedies like Andrew’s sudden death. Despite everything, he was one lad we couldn’t help.

As part of my role with Aberlour, I coach football to the kids who want to learn.  I’ve seen a lot of great footy players. But Andrew was in another league. I really believed he could go the distance Andrew wasn’t a bad kid. But life in Govan can be so hard for some of these young people where they’ve not had the best start in life. Many grow up feeling they have no stake in their future. They look around, and all they see is a life of drugs, drink and violence. It’s their community.

Andrew died from complications caused by taking ecstasy. He was 15 years old.

Kids from the most deprived areas in Scotland are three times more likely not to make it to 25*. That makes Andrew’s death a tragedy — but sadly no surprise. There’s no comfort when a young person dies. All you can see is the lost future—the lost footy career, the lost family life, the lost hope. And all I can hope is that, before he died, Andrew knew that we wanted more for him. That we believed in him.

We urgently need more money to stop more tragedies like this. We need more people to believe in kids like Morgan and Andrew, so that Aberlour can make sure a bad start in life doesn’t lead to a bad end.

These kids are our responsibility — and it’s a responsibility we all share. We should all be looking out for our young people—you, me, everyone. We should all have a stake in their future.

But there are also kids who have often been let down. They’ve endured violence from the adults who are supposed to look out for them. They find it hard to trust anyone and that’s why I need you to help me show them that, for the first time, they have someone they can rely on.

So please, help more young people like Morgan today with a monthly gift to Aberlour. Thank you.

Johnny Hendry, Youth Worker, Aberlour.

Donate at www.aberlour.org.uk/start , call 0800 085 6150, text ‘START’ to 70085 to give £3 a month

 *Research by Morag Treanor, Professor of Child & Family Inequalities, Heriot-Watt University.