Tara Carty, Young People's Learning and Activities Co-ordinator 

In her new blog post, Tara Carty tells of how four young people found their sea legs and new motivation for the future.

As Learning and Activities Co-ordinator for SHP’s Young People’s services, part of my role is to organise residential trips for our clients. Over the years we’ve organised a variety of trips, ranging from a stay on a working farm, to two nights in Barcelona.

Many of the young people we work with have not had the best start in life, and most are not in education, employment or training (‘NEET’) when they are referred to us. As well as providing a safe and stable environment, we work with young people to improve their life chances and prepare them to live independently.

Opening the door to new experiences can be key to raising young people’s aspirations and developing their motivation and engagement. The effect of a single residential trip can be transformative, as people learn to work as a team and discover strengths and talents they never knew they had. They often return with a renewed sense of confidence, purpose and hope for the future, which in turn can lead to college courses, work placements, apprenticeships and even jobs.

This year, we decided to take four young people – Chie, Kelton, Jamie and Yonaton - away on a working barge holiday. Our intrepid crew left our head office in King’s Cross, and embarked on an epic adventure to Maldon, Essex. The trip was an entirely new experience for the group and was the first time that Yonaton, an Eritrean refugee, had seen the British countryside.

These trips are a chance to break down the barriers that can hold socially excluded young people back, so that they can pursue their goals and aspirations.

Reminder is a Thames sailing barge, and one of only a few vessels moored in Maldon. Built in 1929, it would sail along the East Coast from the Albert Dock in London bringing barley. It has been carrying passengers since 1975 and what the two staff, Richard and Hilary, don’t know about the barge isn’t worth knowing. We climbed aboard with adventure in our hearts and hoping that we’d gain our sea legs quickly!

The SHP crew was divided into two teams, taking turns on either the upper deck: sailing, navigating and steering the barge, or lower deck: cleaning, cooking and washing up. Everyone got stuck into their duties and embraced the experience – trips like this can be an excellent chance to help teach basic living skills that most of us take for granted. We cooked all the food from scratch, even baking our own bread, cakes and biscuits. For some young people, this was the first opportunity they had had to learn how to cook.

One thing we weren’t prepared for was for the generator to break down – but no heating or hot water was another obstacle the crew embraced and got on with, with a “can do attitude”. This also meant we had a ‘digital detox’ as phones soon ran out of battery (a disaster for anyone under 21!). We ended up playing ‘old fashioned’ board games long into the night.

On our final day, the weather threw everything it had at us – 45-degree rain and wind in our faces as we sailed. We all had to don the lovely orange “oilies” waterproofs the barge provided for the first time. It was hard work bringing the main sail down in these conditions, but the two teams worked together on deck to do it and did a great job. We were all pleased to be back on dry land.

So what are they up to now? We’ve seen all of them more engaged and motivated since stepping onto dry land. Chie has been on a Prince’s Trust course and is starting a plumbing apprenticeship in September. Kelton has a place on the prestigious Roundhouse music production course, and has also joined in with SHP’s music programme, Sound House Project. Yonaton has since enrolled in college, and is hoping to train to be a nurse in 2018.

These trips are so much more than just a holiday. They are a chance to break down some of the barriers that can hold socially excluded young people back, so that they can pursue their goals and aspirations.

Tara has now taken up a new position at SHP as Corporate Partnerships Coordinator