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Navigating a New Life


Embedded in emergency departments in busy hospitals in Glasgow and Edinburgh our team of Navigators work to stop the revolving door of violent injury. It’s a tough job which requires dedication and a unique set of skills.

In a series of interviews with our team of Navigators we look at what brought them to the job and their advice to those whose lives are being affected by violence.

In this interview Tam Begbie explains why he swapped life as a frontline soldier to become a Navigator. 


What’s your background?

I’ve had a variety of different jobs from McDonalds when i was 15, through to working as a tree surgeon and a bit of everything in between. Then when I was 20 I joined the Black Watch as a frontline combat soldier serving mainly in Afghanistan.

Why did you join the military?

Life wasn’t going the way I hoped it would go, I was getting myself involved in difficult situations and I needed a, ‘get me the hell out of here now’ card because things weren’t going very well. I looked at the army and I thought i’ll give it a go and I ended up really enjoying it.

How did you get involved with the VRU?

The army asked me to be a mentor for the guys taking part in the VRU’s Commonwealth Games programme, which helped former offenders. I wasn’t sure about doing it because I didn’t know what I had to offer. Then on day three of the programme we were all sitting in a circle talking a bit about ourselves. Some of the guys had been through really hard times after getting involved with the wrong crowd and I realised that really I wasn’t so different to these guys. The only thing that separated me from them was that I had a positive role model who stopped me going too far down the wrong path. I opened up a bit about my own story and the guys were asking me for advice.They seemed to be taking what I said on board and I thought maybe I can help people.

Who was your positive role model?

My dad. After speaking to quite a few of the guys they didn’t have a dad that was around. My dad brought four bairns up at the age of 28, to have someone do that is remarkable. Often the guys I was speaking to didn’t have a dad around, he was in prison, or died of an overdose or he was an alcoholic and they had no stability as a kid. Even though I started to get involved in stuff i shouldn’t have been involved in and done stuff I’m not proud of in the past, essentially it was my dad that brought me back so I was able to take a different path.

Why did you become a Navigator?

I enjoyed the Commonwealth Games work so much that I signed off from the army to become a mentor. It just really appealed to me to use basic human skills to talk to people about their difficulties and be compassionate about the fact that life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. I loved the whole idea of Navigator, I loved the mechanics behind it and the simplicity behind it. 

What’s the best bit of the job?

Outcomes. I think most of the Navigators will tell you the same, it’s what gives you the energy to come back weekend after weekend. It’s seeing that little bit of positivity in a persons life that wasn’t there before. We’re not super heroes we’re just helping people to save themselves by giving them hope, energy and self-belief. Seeing the change in someone is just amazing.

What is the worst bit of the job?

The difficulty is you sometimes end up wanting change more than they do at that particular point in time. Maybe they haven’t yet fallen hard enough or they’re just not ready for it. You’re looking at someone who is shattered and broken and yet there’s still a bit of fight and resistance in them to stop them accepting the help on offer. It’s difficult but we have to remain positive that at some point when they’re ready they will get back to us.

What advice would you give to someone stuck in a violent situation?

I would say believe in yourself that change is possible because without that self-belief people really struggle. It’s key to the whole thing. One of the most important things we can do for someone is try to help them believe things can change. 


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