Kareen MacRury, while interviewing for her new post as CNES Settlement Officer in the Western Isles, presented the point to her interview panel that:
“A job here is not just a job. You’re embracing a life less ordinary, full of adventure and community spirit; in a place where everybody is somebody.”
A sentiment that Kareen surely stood by in her role with Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar which has been part funded by HIE. With words like that, you can see why she was hired! Kareen says that:
“The job was created to tackle the population decline in Uist. My post is one of three settlement officers posts, which have been established across the Highlands and Islands to support the retention and attraction of people to the area.
I work alongside the other settlement officers and we are helping people stay, come back and move to our areas. We’re also looking to find out why people leave – economically active people – why are they leaving? and what barriers are they facing? We’re trying to find the solutions to these barriers.
With the improved digital connectivity, and the ability to work from home, young families and individuals have been able move home while maintaining their skilled jobs from the mainland.“
Like manys an Uibhisteach who went before her, when Kareen hit her sassy teenage stage she wanted to experience the world beyond Lochmaddy Pier.
“I was desperate to go away after leaving school. I wanted away to the bright lights and I got a 9-5 job in Glasgow. The job wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I was then at a friend’s wedding in New Zealand and just decided to stay and not come home! I worked for 5 months there and then got a one year visa in Australia.” Kareen loved her time travelling and says it’s “the best thing I ever did, particularly travelling solo. I probably would have been too scared to go and do it if it had been planned out properly.”
After her return to Scotland, Kareen came ‘home’ home. She then went for an apprenticeship job with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and soon after met her future husband, Mathew. Mar a channas iad an uairsin, the rest is history. They’re now married with a young family and Kareen is helping others make their move back to Uist.
“If I just made the smallest impact in a few peoples lives then that would be amazing. I’ve helped many families already in the short time that this post has existed, which is exciting. It’s such a great feeling to know that you’ve supported those families and made a positive impact on the local economy.”
“Housing is a massive issue here, and since I’ve started there have been people in touch reaching out and asking the best way to move back home while buying or building a house. The aim for us is also to support the development of other projects, initiatives and programmes. So, for example we’re working with HHP and HIE and supporting projects so that they’re effective for the community.”
Kareen’s generation, along with all others before her, were encouraged to leave their Hebridean gem behind for better prospects and more opportunities, but Kareen believes that the thought of having to leave home is gradually shifting. “I very much think that the attitudes for younger people are changing about ‘moving away’. People are valuing the quality of life and the island life that offers an alternative way of living and working. Especially since the pandemic days, people appreciate it more.
She commented that while she was a waitress, tourists might ask:
“What is there to do here? but then you think to yourself, well what do you do there? I think we’ve got plenty to offer here. So many people have moved back home and because of the super fast broadband it’s made different types of work possible here”
“On a good day when I’m going down to the beach, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than in Uist. Even when you go away for the weekend and the weathers good you just wish you were at home.”
“I loved being from Uist from a very young age, we had lots of people around us and we had such an amazing childhood, we’d be out for hours and hours and my mother never had to go out looking for us. But then it’s great to experience another life and you get restless when you get to about 18 years old. When I got to that teenager stage, I just wondered… What am I missing out on? Everyone was moving out to Glasgow, but there was always a draw and a connection of coming back home.”
Kareen now has moved onto pastures new within CNES and has recently secured a new job. The good news is though, that the Settlement Officer position is being continued by these bodies in Uist and that her network and team will expand, helping people make the move and cross the Minch ‘home’ to Uist. This new position is yet to be filled but we look forward to working with our new Settlement Officer soon.
To contact Kareen for support for your move to Uist or back ‘home’ you can get in touch through her email: email@example.com or on . You can also find information for your move from Uist Beò through this link: https://uist.co/live/moving-to-uist/
Ar beatha dhan dùthaich.