A local charity has found a unique way of assisting disadvantaged young people, helping them broaden their horizons and develop life skills.
Challenge Wales, situated at Penarth Marina, is on a mission to ‘provide life development opportunities for young people to enable them to participate positively in society’ by getting them involved in voyages.
The project enables young people to develop teamwork skills, improve their communication, develop self-confidence and self-esteem, improve their social skills and understand the importance of time-keeping.
Speaking about the charity, Trustee Vicky said: “Challenge Wales originally sailed around the world twice and then came back to Penarth about 30 years ago. We work dominantly with disadvantaged young people, so teaching life skills, and through that they improve their employability prospects and learn about teamwork, communication skills, decision making and planning is pretty challenging sailing a large yacht.”
“For many, they’ve never even seen a boat close up before, let alone been on one.”
The boat, which has a 95 foot high mask, is the largest boat in Penarth Marina, with Vicky adding: “She’s probably the largest boat in Wales. One of the challenges we do is to take young people mass climbing as well, so they will climb all the way up to the top of the mass.”
“Usually we do adult and young people trips, it’s not just young people we work with.”
Representing Cardiff, Wales and the UK in the Tall Ships races, which sees the international fleet of Tall Ships and Small Ships return to the North Sea, Challenge Wales has been away for 70 to 80 days at a time, sailing to Finland and Lithuania.
Talking more about the project, Vicky explained: “For a lot of people that come on board, it is sort of life changing. It gives them a bit of focus, they’ve never seen anything like this before or done anything like this before. Our direction has changed slightly with sort of sustainability and the environmental side of things. We go out to see and we see wildlife, we see the dolphins and seals and puffins when we get a little bit further down the Bristol Channel. But then we also see the litter in the water and the fishing nets.”
“It’s pretty horrific. We have taken steps here to reduce our use of plastic. Sometimes it’s very difficult when shops only give you an option to buy something in plastic, which is really frustrating. We’ve been focusing a bit on that and micro plastic, looking at the really small bits of plastic in the sand.”
The young people that find themselves involved with Challenge Wales often learn valuable life skills on board, with Vicky stating: “The young people will jump onboard not knowing anything and a few days later, they’ll be the ones cooking breakfast for 14 people at 8 O’Clock in the morning and they will be the ones who are getting the boat ready, sailing it and knowing exactly what to do to get the boat from A to B.”
“We’ve had people who haven’t made a cup of tea before, people who have come onboard and had a privileged upbringing so have had everything done for them. Where as here, they’re doing things for themselves and relying on each other and taking responsibility for their actions.”
“The bunks are pretty cosy. When we’re sailing, particularly on longer trips, everyone’s working in watches, even the young people. So they’re awake for three hours, then three hours of sleep, then back awake for three hours.”
“A couple of years ago, we launched accredited learning. We do Agored Cymru, which is a Welsh accreditation that uses innovative and flexible approaches to developing qualifications to meet skills needed in Wales. It means that people who might not be in school or are homeschoolers, those that the national curriculum doesn’t suit can come on board and they can get units that they can put on their CV. We’ve got one in teamwork, one in developing confidence and an environmental project which is quite rewarding.”
“Some young people at the end of the trip will get a Challenge Wales achievement certificate, that’s the first piece of paper, first thing that’s acknowledged as a success of theirs. It’s quite powerful.”
During Covid, the income received by Challenge Wales was halted overnight. “To fundraise, we do adult adventures. Anyone over 18-80 can jump onboard the boat. We’re looking now for adults to book onto our trips, because that money then will get gifted.”
“It’s £95 for a days sale, a full day on the water. It’s £220 for our weekend trip.”
To find out more about Challenge Wales and how you can book a trip on Penarth Marina’s biggest boat, visit: http://challengewales.org/