Volunteering adventures at sea

Posted on the 5th June 2019

Ocean Youth Trust South is a charity using adventure under sail to promote personal development for very disadvantaged and vulnerable young people. We run voyages in a large sailing vessel for 12-15 young people at a time, accompanied by 6-8 staff and volunteers. Four of our sailing volunteers tell their stories.

Georgia Watson (20) suffered badly with anxiety as a teenager and was unable to attend mainstream school. She came to Ocean Youth Trust South aged 16 through her Pupil Referral Unit. She excelled on board and was invited back by the Skipper for volunteer training over the next three years. In November 2018, she was selected as one of the most promising young people in the charity and offered a two-year full-time paid role on board. She recently passed her Watchleader assessment and is now a qualified Third Mate, and has just completed her first navigation qualification (Royal Yachting Association’s Day Skipper Theory) and her Day Skipper Practical qualification.

Georgia says: “A couple of years ago I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, but volunteering gave me confidence and all sorts of new skills, and that led me into a job which is constantly changing, interesting, exciting and fun. It’s the best job I could ever think of doing!”

Georgia Watson teaching use of winches

Niamh Lamin (20), has a very significant visual impairment but volunteers on board, responsible for things like daily engine checks. She is a huge inspiration and it is quite something to see her explaining things on board to a sighted person who doesn’t have the same skills, experience and confidence as Niamh. She says: “Being asked back to volunteer was definitely a turning-point in my life because it showed me I could do things I never thought would be possible. When I come across challenges or setbacks in my life, I look back at volunteering for OYT South as a real source of encouragement and a confidence-boost.”

Niamh Lamin (front, centre, in blue)

Lauren Mackenzie (18), has been volunteering on board for a couple of years and has just joined our Board of Trustees. Lauren now has a full vote on the Board of a charity turning over £350,000 a year – she is learning how to read accounts, deal with staffing issues, take key decisions for the future of the charity, and much more – all the time providing a voice for young people at the heart of the charity’s management. Lauren says: “Alongside lots of qualifications and achievements, through OYT South I have met many amazing people, given many young people amazing experiences and made countless happy memories for myself. I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to volunteer for this incredible charity!”

Lauren Mackenzie teaches crew members to steer

Danny Ballantyne (25), came to us through our partnership with Outdoor Lads, a charity which exists to encourage gay men to get involved in outdoor activities. Danny sailed for the first time in his life last summer and says: “When I went home I lost my job and had to move out of where I was living; but I had the chance to go back to Ocean Youth Trust South and prove myself to the skipper – and as a result I got taken on as a full-time volunteer doing boat maintenance over the winter. I’ve met so many people and made so many friends. This year I’ve been signed on for a dozen voyages and I’m going to be volunteering with some really interesting groups of young people and working on my sailing qualifications.”

Danny Ballantyne supervising use of winches

Caroline White

Business Manager at OYT South

Our mission is to help young people – many of them disadvantaged and vulnerable – to develop the skills they need to succeed in life, such as confidence, team-working, communication and resilience.

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