The “Unlocking Confidence Afloat” project works with young people aged 4 – 24 who are often disabled or have specialty needs to get on board to enjoy the ride but also to learn. The project aims to build confidence in the young people they work with by teaching them new skills and by giving them a turn at steering the barge.
Keith Levy, 53, volunteers at the charity working as a part of a small team of dedicated volunteers who manage the trust whilst running day trips and three day residential trips to ensure that all their participants have a great time.
Keith said: “I have been with the Ethel Trust for over 22 years now, as a volunteer and trustee. I got involved through my job as a Small Groups Advisor with Voluntary Action Sheffield. I went along to one of their meetings to help them with some guidance and I was just so impressed with their work. They are always trying to make a difference to people’s lives, particularly with young people. So I decided to take on being a volunteer. I’ve been on Ethel lots of times and I always thoroughly enjoy it.
“The Unlocking Confidence project brings young people with disabilities on to the waterways where they have a really fun and adventurous time and learn how to do things on the barge.
“One of the most moving and humbling bits of feedback that we had about a trip with young people, as a part of Unlocking Confidence, was just that we had got someone to smile. If just a smile is such a noticeable thing then we must be doing a good thing!
“We do want to expand the groups we work with. At the moment we work a lot with older people social groups and young people too but we want to expand our services to more groups across South Yorkshire. We would like to get back involved with probation services so we can support young people at risk of falling into crime. That is how the project originally started back in 1988.”
The Ethel Trust is currently in the middle of its season and is in the process of running over 60 day trips and 10 residential trips booked already. The charity is based in Sheffield at Victoria Quays but run their trips from Thorne in Doncaster during the summer boating season.
South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation (SYCF) a local grant making charity supported the trust with a grant to help cover staffing costs for their young people project.
Ruth Willis, CEO of SYCF said:
“The Ethel Trust is a fantastic project and gives so many people the opportunity to do something fun and quite unique. We have been funding the Ethel Trust for a long time and watched it grow over the years. Now we are celebrating our 30th Anniversary giving to charities and community groups like them, it makes us very proud to look at the difference they are making to so many lives, knowing that we have been able to help.
“As a grant making charity we fund South Yorkshire community groups working for community good and I encourage groups big or small to see if they can benefit from our grant funding programmes. Our latest impact report revealed that our grants supported 1 in 10 people in South Yorkshire last year. I want us to beat that number this year!”
Keith continued: “We got another bit of feedback from someone who came on a trip with Bridlington Therapy Centre. They said ‘I had such a wonderful day. It means so much to me having a broken past’. We know that there are young people and old people whose lives are touched by what we do and the feedback we get is very important to us.
“We are so busy at the moment, I was talking to another volunteer the other day and he said that he had been on Ethel 7 out of 9 days, doing back to back residentials. He was going home to sleep straight after talking to me! So more volunteers would be fantastic. They all love what they do and want everyone who comes on board to have a good time. We always fully train our crew members and skippers and we always say that before anyone commits that they should come and do a trip on the boat to make sure that they are happy to continue first.
To find out more about volunteering opportunities or trips on the Ethel Community Barge go to www.etheltrust.co.uk/volunteering/ or call 07722678168.