Young people learn skills as they sail the waterways

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Enjoying the tranquil pleasures of exploring South Yorkshire’s hidden waterways by boat is helping young people to develop life skills.

Youngsters aged four to 24, many of whom are disabled or have special needs, enjoy life on board the barge Ethel while learning and developing their confidence.

“Unlocking Confidence Afloat” is the flagship project of the Ethel Trust, a unique charity run entirely by volunteers, which works with people of all ages.

Keith Levy, 53, is part of the small team of 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 Ethel 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 when I was asked to advise the Trust on some management issues. I was so impressed with what it did that I decided to volunteer.”

“I’ve been on Ethel lots of times and I always thoroughly enjoy it.”

They are always trying to make a difference to people’s lives...

Keith Levy

The Trust’s flagship project “Unlocking Confidence Afloat” provides a fun filled waterbourne experience for disabled young people as they learn to operate the Ethel barge, work locks and bridges and uncover the secrets of the waterways. The project also helps build confidence and improve social skills.

Keith continued: “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 with 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.”

Pix: Shaun Flannery/shaunflanneryphotography.com

South Yorkshire's Community Foundation (SYCF) - 30th Anniversary Event
Wosskow Brown, Attercliffe.

Pix: Shaun Flannery/shaunflanneryphotography.com South Yorkshire's Community Foundation (SYCF) - 30th Anniversary Event Wosskow Brown, Attercliffe.

This year the Trust has delivered over 50 day trips with a further 30 to come and 5 residentials with another 5 on the cards. Trips in the early part of 2016 were delivered from Eastwood Lock, Rotherham with outings from mid May taking place from Thorne near Doncaster.

Keith added: “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 seven out of nine 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.”

South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation (SYCF), a grant making charity, supported the trust with funding to help cover staffing costs for their young people project.

Ruth Willis, Chief Executive Officer 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.”

To find out more about volunteering opportunities or trips on the Ethel Community Barge go to The Ethel Trust Community Barge or call 07722678168.

To find out more about The Ethel Trust go to Ethel Trust

Get in touch by email: ethelbarge@gmail.com

South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation (SYCF) is celebrating its 30th Birthday, giving to South Yorkshire communities. To give a birthday gift of £3 simply text: SYCF30 £3 to 70070.

To see if you can apply for funding go to South Yorkshire Community Foundation

For other ways to give go to South Yorkshire Community Foundation

The Foundation has distributed 8,253 grants worth a total of over £26m in its three decades. Lord Lieutenant of South Yorkshire Andrew Coombe is the president of the foundation.