Once or twice a year our panel of Mythbusters come together to discuss some of the cases we have dealt with, and to identify what lessons we can take from each one.
Last time we met, in 2015, someone suggested it would be good to hear from someone in the charity/volunteering sector who had succeeded in avoiding the nonsense which can get in the way of providing experiences to people. At our first gathering of 2016, held this week, we were all inspired after meeting Simon Davis and Peter May.
Simon runs the Rivertime Boat Trust based on the Thames in Buckinghamshire. It all started with the conversion of a 42 foot pleasure craft called ‘Rivertime’ to enable disabled wheelchair bound children and adults to experience the enjoyment of trips on the river. The landing facilities and the boat are equipped with all of the necessary ramps to enable safe access and the facilities on-board are all designed to be accessible. Simply enabling groups to get out on the water and enjoy the experience is an achievement to be proud of.
But for Simon it didn’t stop there – enabling the groups to simply enjoy looking at the sites on the river wasn’t enough. He teamed up with Peter May from Bisham Sailing club to explore how the experience could be made more ‘hands-on’. This has resulted in the formation of the Accessible Boat Club which gets groups of young disabled people out in bell-boats (2x6person canoes joined together to provide greater stability) on the river using the paddles and oars and really experiencing the river rather than just taking a trip.
They also have a converted landing craft which enables young people in a wheelchair to learn to steer and take control of a motorised vessel for themselves. Since starting up this voluntary endeavour thousands of young people have not only had an enjoyable experience but have built their confidence, learned new skills, had fun and got wet.
Just take a look for yourselves at the smiling happy faces on the websites and be inspired – rivertimeboattrust.org.uk and firstname.lastname@example.org
We asked Simon and Peter if it had been difficult to handle the ‘health and safety’ issues. They gave us a slightly odd look and said “We just got on and did it, it wasn’t difficult”.
Simon went on to say “We don’t really talk about health and safety it’s all part and parcel of making it happen for these kids – no one wants them to be put at risk so we handle it”.
That sums it all up for me. If you really want something to happen and you have the vision and the will – it really isn’t difficult. We all left our meeting yesterday inspired by Peter and Simon – and feeling even more frustrated with the jobsworths who are stuck in “Why we can’t” rather than “How we can”.