See here for a voyage report from Toynbee Hall / Bethnal Green Technology College.
Other recent comment son group voyages:
“Sailing with OYT South offers HAMPSHIRE'S CHILDREN-IN-CARE many benefits, among these being the opportunity to experience working as a member of a team, where mutual cooperation, communication and sharing responsibility are key aspects to sailing a large ocean-going vessel. Sailing also offers the participating children an alternative approach to re-engaging with education albeit outside of a school classroom environment, in which many experience some kind of difficulty either interacting with other children or coping with academic study. The children who sail gain confidence and self esteem through a sense of accomplishment, as well as benefit from the physical activity and maritime environment, both of which not many children experience in normal everyday life these days. And finally, every child who has participated in the sailing programme has thoroughly enjoyed the experience and always asks to do it again.” Geoff Buss, Team for the Education of Children in Care, Hampshire County Council
The SENIOR SECTION GIRL GUIDES organised a group in 2008. One 23-year old said: “I reached my aim! I survived my first week of sailing on an awesome boat. Have learned tons and met some ace people. Thank you for the opportunity and for the bursary that enabled me to come.” Group leader Michelle said: “You’ve made us feel welcome, showed endless patience and shared your valuable experience.”
A group of YOUNG CARERS from Hertfordshire endured some of the worst weather of the season and still came up smiling. 17-year old Claire said: “This trip was great, I will never forget it. The leaders and the people were great fun. I had a good laugh. My favourite part was when we went out at night and did watch. I had never seen anything like it, the stars were beautiful. I will never forget the people, the holding on for dear life in your bunks, clowning around with everyone while dancing to S Club.”
Eight disadvantaged young people from DORSET joined the Tall Ships Cruise in Company in Norway. Area Youth Worker Steve Lacey wrote: “The majority of this group had underachieved at school and in a number of cases not completed secondary education. All achieved a nationally recognised qualification during the voyage. For all, Tall Ships provides a unique blend of social, physical and cultural challenges which significantly develop young peoples’ attitudes and skills which are transferable to their day to day lives.”
TOYNBEE HALL is a Tower Hamlets-based charity, which uses voyages each year as part of their year-long Aspire Project, for disengaged young people who are not getting the full benefits of formal schooling. The project as a whole reported significant improvements in confidence and in school engagement. Jane Fletcher, Toynbee’s Education Programme Manager, wrote: “The sailing trips our young people took part in were a fantastic culmination of the skills and experiences they had throughout their year with Aspire, and we have booked up to go again in 2009. Many of our participants do not leave London very often (or indeed ever), certainly have never been on a 72’ yacht and mostly have not cooked and taken responsibility for themselves and a group in this way ever before.” On one voyage, group leader Dawn wrote: "I never thought that being on board a boat with 10 kids would be fun but you know what, it was brilliant. OYT was an experience of a lifetime." Saif wrote: "OYT rules. Great time sailing and blissful joy all the way." And a 15-year old girl said of her voyage: "It was a whole new life experience and inspiring to us youths that get called yobs."
ACORNS CHILDREN'S HOSPICE brought a crew of siblings to sail in June 2008. Group leader David wrote: "Amazing week made possible by a fantastic staff, crew and skipper, great balance of work, rest and play." Amber (15) wrote: "I've never actually been sailing before and this has been an amazing experience. The staff were really helpful and friendly and and I learnt so much thanks to them." Grant (16) said: "I had so much fun, I never thought that I would like sailing so much." And Hamish (14) wrote: "Very very fun, but so tired at the end."
NAOMI HOUSE CHILDREN’S HOSPICE, WINCHESTER organises voyages for brothers and sisters of children who are currently very ill or who have died in the hospice. One teenager commented: “Usually I am shy when I first meet people, mainly because I dread when they are going to ask how many brothers and sisters I have. Being in the same situation as everyone else helped me to feel more at ease and happier.” Another said: “It was one of the most enjoyable weeks I've ever had. As we were all in similar situations it was very easy to just sit down and talk when we were off watch and it was also easy to work as a team when we were on watch. The whole group just gelled so easily because we all realised that we weren't alone. I can't wait to meet up again as I believe it's important for us to stay in contact now that we've found each other." On another Naomi House voyage, the group leader said: “Thanks very much for a great chance to work with a great bunch and fantastic crew to give us all a fun-filled voyage. Will treasure the experience. Thanks for giving the youngsters a great time.” A crew member added: “The sea staff were really nice to everyone. I would like to come back again.” And the following year a 17-year old boy from Naomi House wrote: “I have enjoyed this trip to an amazing extent and if anyone asks me about the voyage I will tell them it is an amazing and mind-blowing experience and even though you have to work your nuts off it is all worth the late nights, meeting all different people and getting so close and just making the bond with everyone.”
THE TEENAGE CANCER TRUST brought a group from Manchester and Leeds, most of whom were just recovering from cancer, with one due to restart chemotherapy the week after the voyage. One crew member said: “There are no words that could describe the way I feel but it is definitely one thing in life worth doing and coming out with a certificate! Hopefully more patients from TCT in Manchester can experience the same feeling.” One of the TCT staff added: “Have got so much from this trip, words can’t say or express. I just want to get back on a sailing boat and go back out to sea. A truly magical experience mainly due to all the staff. A big thank you to you all from the bottom of my heart. I will see you all again, I’m sure.” Some months after their 2006 voyage came the sad news that one of the Teenage Cancer Trust group had died; but one of the staff told us: “At the funeral her dad read a piece about her sailing experience and how it empowered her and made her feel strong when she was so sick. I just wanted you to know what an effect you had on her.”
SUNNYDOWN SCHOOL, CATERHAM works with profoundly dyslexic pupils. Heather Perkins, Sunnydown’s Senior Residential Childcare Officer, thought the sailing experience was ideal for them: “It can do so much to develop their confidence. Most of them were at mainstream schools before they came to Sunnydown, and will have been really struggling. They often come to us with very low self-esteem, and we have to work hard at building them up again.” Her colleague, Tim Magson, has a strong background in outdoor activities for young people, but says nothing beats sailing. “It’s just a fantastic thing to do. Modern life is so sanitized that kids often don’t get a chance to achieve their full potential. Here, you are out in the elements, away from land. It’s the truest adventure the children will ever experience.”
XL CLUBS target young people facing difficulties in school, to promote achievement and encourage success. XL clubs seek to re-engage and motivate young people. Throughout their last two years of compulsory schooling, club members learn to take responsibility, develop social skills and enjoy the benefits of teamwork. We have a done a number of voyages with two XL groups from Chichester. After a voyage in 2006, a staff member wrote to us about one of the girls: “She has had not ambition or aspirations until recently. It is difficult to explain in an email how she has changed since our trip in John Laing, she was outstanding on the trip. I always try to think that I can see the potential in each of the students, but I have to admit, she surprised me with her skills and ability.” After another trip, the leader wrote: “On behalf of the boys taking part, I would like to say a big thank you to all the staff involved. It was a very challenging group of boys but I felt the sea staff did an excellent job in the way they handled this group. The boys went through a really good life changing experience which they will remember for the rest of their lives and it will take some time for some of the changes to show themselves. The safety element of such a long voyage was first class and I felt it was uppermost in the crew’s minds at all times. Their rapport with the boys was a key element to the success of the voyage, which was a combination of care and high expectations.” One boy said: “I thoroughly enjoyed sailing in John Laing. The team were great although seasick in the English Channel going to Cherbourg!” A second added: “The XL Club from Chichester had a great 5 days and learned a lot. Sailing to France was an achievement.”
OYT South has enjoyed a highly effective partnership with CHASE CHILDREN’S HOSPICE, GUILDFORD, including very successful joint fundraising events as well as a voyage for brothers and sisters of life-limited children. One girl said: “Absolutely fantastic experience, loved e very second and would so love to come again (if you’ll have me!). Huge thanks to everyone for making it the bestest trip ever.” Another CHASE crew member added: “Never thought I’d really like the ocean but surprise surprise I did. Thank you so much.” Chris Robinson, Chief Executive, CHASE, said: “There is a lot said about charities competing. The work that has been done by OYT South and CHASE is a great example of charities working closely together.” Another crew member told us: “The thing I enjoyed most was doing the ropes and steering the boat in the rough weather…The sea was great. I loved it when it was rough…I missed all my family but I loved being on the boat. I would love to go again for longer.” And one of the CHASE staff who went on the trip said: “Wow, what an experience! Having the chance to be part of this amazing trip was truly awesome. The sights we saw and the weather we faced made the trip more memorable and I would recommend and encourage anybody to take part in what is definitely the trip of a lifetime.” On a subsequent voyage, another leader said: “Absolutely wonderful time – great opportunity to see children with varied backgrounds getting along so well and having the opportunity to be individuals learning some of their future strengths with no pressures attached.”
STANBRIDGE EARLS SCHOOL specialises in teaching pupils with dyslexia. Teacher Bob Collier said: “I am writing to thank you for the remarkable work OYT South does for young people with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties….I have been deeply impressed by how much you can achieve with these youngsters in a short space of time…. Sometimes an individual who normally lacks self-belief has got off the boat looking two feet taller.”
WORTHING U PROJECT is for 15 and 16 year old school leavers who are unsure what to do next – whether to go to college, or get a job. “U” stands for Unlimited (potential); Unmissable (opportunity); Unbelievable (your reaction the first time you do something you never thought you could do); Unexpected (what you’ll find out about yourself). A U project group from Worthing sailed in John Laing to build confidence in themselves and their abilities, and develop useful skills like communication and teamwork. After their voyage, the young crew members took part in presentations to a group of parents and other participants. The leaders commented on one boy’s performance: “Six months earlier you certainly would not have had him speak publicly at all. His self-esteem had risen and for the first time he was excited about doing something different and challenging for him.” Derek Bowen, Neighbourhood Youth Worker, Worthing, called the voyage “The best residential experience I have ever taken part in – and I have been on a few”. And one crew member said: “I am well and truly over my fear of water and have achieved something I had never even dreamt of doing.”
COBNOR ACTIVITIES CENTRE brought a group of keen young dinghy sailors for two voyages in 2006 – including the Small Ships Race in the Solent. One said: "A must for all sea-lovers – an unforgettable experience.” Another added: " Awesome sail. Good way to get experience on the sea. Loved it.”
ROUNDWOOD YOUTH CLUB from Brent has sailed regularly for many years. In 2006 they managed three countries in three days (Holland, Belgium and France) before finishing back in the UK. Krissie, 17, wrote: “the night watch was good as it was so fascinating how the stars and sky and sea collided together.” Shekhar, 13, added: "At first I was scared but I got to know a lot of people and had a lot of fun. Altogether it was scary, nervous, exciting and happy.”
PARK HOUSE SCHOOL AND SPORTS COLLEGE sailed with a group of 13 and 14 year olds: “This was my first time sailing and it was probably the most challenging and the best trip I have been on. The best part of the trip was putting the sails up and doing the night watches.” Daryl, 13
TS SWIFTSURE (Nautical Training Corps) sails with a group ranging from 12-year old cadets to 20-year old officers. Zoë, 12, said “It was soooooo good! I loved it, I want to stay forever and not to go to school.” Nick, 17, added “Thank you very much for providing such a fantastic experience. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and there was never a bad point. The sea staff were brilliant and I really enjoyed their company.” Their group organiser, Adele, told us “The staff were fabulous and really understand working with young adults and how to get them to achieve their various certifications. A very big thank you.” As the TS Swiftsure group sails with us year after year, older members who have done several voyages are encouraged to take on leadership roles and responsibility for supporting younger cadets. David, aged 15, wrote: “I’ve always loved John Laing every time I have been, but this time has topped all of the others mainly because we’ve done more, helping to teach the newcomers.” One of the new ones was Alice, 12: “Everything is better than I imagined and I can’t wait till next time to learn more and challenge myself further – the life skills you learn make a BIG difference.”
The Devon and Cornwall FOYER FEDERATION, which offers accommodation and training to homeless young people, has become regulars on board John Laing, with one boy earning a recommendation to join our watch leader training programme: “It has been the best time of my life and I enjoyed it some much I didn’t want to leave.” Ashley, 18. On another Foyer voyage,. Allan, 24, told us “I didn’t know what to expect at all on the first day. It’s turned out to be an unforgettably amazing experience. I’ve enjoyed the company and made some cool new friends. It’s been a life-changing time. Massive respect to all.” Emma, 17, said “Thanks for bringing the dolphins out, you’ve made my life complete. You have really made me feel welcome, you are all a wicked bunch.”
COMMUNITY LINKS is an East London charity dealing with an immense range of issues. Kevin Jenkins, Children’s and Youth Work Director, said: “I write on behalf of Community Links to thank you for the exceptional experience you facilitated for our young people over the five days on board. The young people gained considerably in confidence and esteem along with their peers. I am certain that the experience will continue to benefit all the young people positively in their future personal development. Please pass on our thanks to the team who instilled confidence and belief in everyone.”
ALFRETON PARK COMMUNITY SPECIAL SCHOOL works with pupils with severe learning difficulties, profound and multiple learning difficulties, and severe learning difficulties with autism.Their voyages involve just six pupils at a time, with six adults offering one-to-one support. On year, the school said: “To say we were proud of all six students is an understatement to say the least. They touched the hearts of the crew and volunteers who said it was the best week they’d had this year.” Another year Lizzie, aged 17, told us “Thank you for the sailing, it was good, it was quiet on the sea with no cars about.” Luke, 16, said: “Jon and Geoff helped me put the sails up, enjoyed our barbeque on the beach and helming the boat.”
BOURNE COMMUNITY COLLEGE has joined a number of voyages. One year 8 and 9 group wrote afterwards: “When the wind whipped up, it was scary, but extremely exciting to be on board as the ship heeled over. This seemed like the high spot of a real adventure, the sort you read about in books or watch on films. We feel so proud of ourselves for helping to man the boat and act as members of a real crew. Although we have photos to share with our parents, it’s the photos in our memories that we will hold forever.”