As we reflect on the past year, we, once again, are back into another national lockdown. This one more important than the last as daily cases surpass 50K.
This extended lockdown once again creates a threat to the many different charities and social enterprises that provide sail training and the amazing outcomes it produces. Clearly bringing different groups of young people together, from different households for residential sailing voyages cannot operate safely in a COVID-19 world.
Even before coronavirus, we were acutely aware of the challenges faced by young people. High levels of mental health issues, anxiety, a fast-changing landscape of technology causing isolation, pressures to perform in exams and more. This Guardian Article confirms that things will be worse because of the current crisis. We are already hearing from parents whose children are struggling to cope with the various lockdowns and tiers.
Young people who might have sailed with us will have been cooped up for weeks, separated from friends, worried about school and exams, and will be heading for the start of adult life amidst extraordinary economic uncertainty and insecurity. Our own ASPIRE360 Round Britain Challenge is once again very likely to have to be postponed. Not to mention all the other plans we had for the year ahead.
To deliver our valuable and life changing sail training voyages, we need to be able to offer voyages again as soon as it is safe to do so. This means that we must navigate our way through a period during which we have had no income for well over 12 months.
We were lucky to receive a small discretionary grant just before we moved Helen Mary R to Fowey last year and this, along with our own incomes (My wife and I support the Project financially) have been used to keep paying the Project bills.
Keeping a sail training vessel running is a massive financial commitment; mooring fees, servicing safety kit, paying for insurance, to keeping systems operating aboard.
We are lucky in that we have no paid staff. My wife and I have managed to pick up work in other fields whilst our primary income has all but dried up during the pandemic. We have a ‘somewhat’ secure monthly income, so for the short term the Project is ok. What is looming on the horizon is annual berthing fees, annual insurance, coding surveys, and haul out ashore along with our refit costs.
On 8th April last year the Chancellor announced £750 million in support for charities and social enterprises affected by COVID-19. Many of our friends and supporters hoped this would be great news for us.
Sadly, this money is explicitly aimed at ensuring that charities “can continue their vital work during the coronavirus crisis”. We absolutely support the need to help charities doing fantastic and essential work now, but it does make it more difficult for us.
This fund was not aimed at charities which have had to cease operations on a temporary basis: although we can make a strong case that Morvargh Sailing Project and other sail trainers have a vital role to play once the immediate crisis is over, we are concerned that charities unable to operate now may be overlooked for support.
Several other schemes which have received wide publicity appear to be set up on a similar basis, and as we don’t have fixed premises we also miss out on the business rate support.
Without help, we will be using money that has been set aside for other needs to keep the Project afloat. This will severely affect our ability to maintain Helen Mary R and will compromise our ability to function affectively in the future.
The more time we spend working to financially support the Project, annoyingly also means there is less time to dedicate to it. A real catch-22 situation. We both feel massively guilty we are not dedicating enough time to Morvargh.
Our commitment, however, is unwavering and we truly believe that young people will need our services more than ever once the pandemic is behind us.
It is not all doom and gloom, our move of the Project to Fowey has opened new doors and we cannot wait to pull together the ideas and plans we have with Fowey River Academy. We hope that we can build an annual major expedition each year, and potentially allow the school to use the boat as a floating classroom in our down time between trips.
We also became a member of the Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO). This is great validation for the work we do, and we are now officially part of the 30+ not-for-profit organizations that operate more than 50 Sail Training vessels around the UK.
Fowey & Charlestown Harbours and Fowey Gallants Sailing Club have all been so supportive, helpful, and welcoming and we cannot thank them enough! We are just sorry we have not been able to sail as much as we would like and show how much we make a difference to young people’s lives.
How you can help
If you are able, can we persuade anyone to consider?
- Helping us to find, write and apply for funding bids
- Write to your MP or lobby anyone else in authority to:
- Promote the need for financial support for charities and social enterprises currently unable to operate
- Official public support for the value of outdoor education in helping people recover from the effects of the crisis
- More long-term funding for youth services and outdoor education generally.
- Getting involved in a shore-side role, from refitting to awareness raising
We are always balancing short term cashflow and as such we have set-up two GoFundMe fundraising campaigns. These have been designed to support the project in two very different ways.
If you can donate to either of these, we cannot thank you enough. It really does not need to be much, even a few pounds adds up over time.
Many of the young people we target come to us from disadvantaged backgrounds, coming from places like St Blazey, Fowey, Polruan, and Lostwithiel. Whilst Cornwall is one of the most beautiful places in the country, its rural isolation and low income per capita means many families struggle to give their children the opportunities that others may take for granted.
With your help, we want to reduce the barrier to entry for young people taking part in one of our voyages. Donating to this GoFundMe will enable us to build a bursary scheme which a young person can access to support them.
We spend in the region of £10k a year on Helen Mary R’s annual refit & coding; from anti-foul, to paint brushes, anodes to sail repairs it all adds up. With your help, this fund will enable us to ensure that we are ready to start sailing as soon as we are permitted.
As our attention turns to how long we might be in this lockdown we are starting to plan how we can bring young people together face-to-face inside the ‘normal’ season in a COVID-19 safe way. We will be following the National Youth Agency (NYA) guidance for protecting everyone. Day sailing from Fowey being the first option.
We are always trying to innovate and several questions we are asking are: could we do something completely new and different during the autumn and/or winter? How do we reach more young people? Is a youth club afloat a good idea?
Just because we have never done it before does not mean we never could or should. There will be other possibilities we have not even thought about yet, what comes next, and how that then flows into 2021 or 2022, is where our attention now turns.
This will include speaking to you, our wider Project family for ideas and inspiration as to how we might be able to support young people in ways we have never done before.
One thing is certain; we cannot wait to get sailing again!
Matt & Vicky Barraud