Friends of RTBP Summer Newsletter
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Dear Friends of the River Thames Boat Project,
It's summer, we are actually having summer!!! Sorry, only in the UK do we get so excited about a bit of warm weather and sunshine. But I'll bet Peter is pleased that the canopy is being used as a sunshade rather than an umbrella, and although our clients all say thay have a lovely time even when it's damp and cool I suspect they like it just that bit more when the sun shines. I hope you are all enjoying it, and I will be going out into the garden when I have finished writing this.
So the Venturer is busy cruising in the sunshine but there is a lot more going on with the Charity as you will read below. In particular, Louise's Strategy Update outlines how much work there is to do as we figure out the right approach for the Charity for the future, a new boat being just part of it! Although there is much to do first, the fundrasing stage will arrive soon enough and we will all need to find ways to help when the time comes - watch this space.
A Special Weekend Cruise
Two years ago we were approached by the National Community Boat Association (NCBA) to run a residential weekend for young people with cancer organised by Sail 4 Cancer (S4C) - a charity which funds sailing trips for families affected by cancer. We were only too happy to help. It was the first time that S4C had used the inland waterways for their trips and along with one other NCBA member we ran a successful trip in 2012. A lack of funding prevented S4C from running the trip with us last year but this year, with funding in place, the trip was on!
- We chose a warmer period of year this time and a bank holiday weekend to give the parents more time to get to the boat to deliver their children. Participants started to arrive on Saturday morning and by midday we were ready to wave goodbye to the parents and start our adventure. It's a unique trip because the children with cancer bring a friend with them for help and support. By request the children split into a girl crew and a boy crew, and were delegated to take turns with cooking, cleaning, and crewing. By nightfall we were ready for bed having played rounders until it got too dark to see!
Sunday saw the sun shine and we cruised to Windsor Great Park where we dropped anchor and paddled ashore for a fresh game of rounders. A sunset cruise downstream gave a fresh challenge to our young helms while a feast was being prepared by the boys in the galley - the standard had been set by the girls with their victoria sponge! Chertsey meadow at sunset brought out the bat detecting team while the remainder settled on the deciding game of rounders. The lights went out and you could hear a pin drop - everyone was exhausted.
There's nothing quite like a cooked breakfast to start the cruising day, a welcome treat as the weather had turned wet. But it didn't dampen spirits and before long we were back at Kingston handing out crew certificates and saying farewell to Sail 4 Cancer for another year.
Peter Oldham, Skipper
‘How’s the fundraising for the new boat coming along?’ is a question I get asked frequently, following our members’ vote last November to grow and modernise.
The topic we all love to talk about is boats - after all it’s why many of us attached ourselves to the Charity. And the boat team has indeed been busy, as Peter Low reported last issue. But, no surprises, we have much to do before we are ready to launch our fundraising appeal. This will be a long-haul campaign, not a quick hit, and we want to be sure we get our approach right as we hunt for Thames Venturer Mark 2. So here’s a glimpse of what’s going on.
First, let’s remember we set five long-term goals:
1. A permanent mooring - if not one we actually own, one we know will be there for a while (that was not the case with the dock). We now have that.
2. A boat environmentally sound - and sound in every other way - that has state-of-the-art facilities for vulnerable people, for those living with disability and for education.
3. Facilities near the boat for shore-based work - in addition to the storage we have gained as part of the dock development.
4. Funds in the bank for long-term security - that’s a real stretch goal!
But more important than all these is number 5. The client goal. What we want for the people who come on board, and what they want for themselves, whether they spend a day, or two, or more, with us. And that - put very simply - is an experience that has the power to change lives for the better.
Sounds grand? Maybe. Yet we know that’s what our charitable work can do. The client comment book we now have on board shows it, as does our client monitoring and the great feedback we regularly get.
So, this year, we are looking at different types of boat, starting to estimate costs, and pursuing a lead we have on shore facilities (too early to reveal). However, it is the client goal that we are really concentrating on. What’s wanted and what could we really offer? What might some of our future cruises look like? What impact would that have? When we have that nailed - checking in all the while with our current and possible future clients - we will have a clearer picture of the boat and kit we want, our people development needs, where our clients will come from (we know the landscape is changing), the value they put on the experience, and the message we use to attract funding.
We need to think hard and research well, and we have made a start. We have now fleshed out two to three big programme ideas, and will shortly be taking these ideas to client groups.
Meanwhile, we still have a thriving operation to run. We are dedicating time and thought to the future. We want to make clear steady progress. Thinking big and driving fast are not the same thing. Today’s work - making sure we have happy clients, a committed (and happy) volunteer cohort AND the funds to do our work - still takes top priority.
Louise Sibley, Chair
School on the River - Mid-summer Update
We are nearing the end of a busy and successful School on the River season (our 'season' finishes in July with the end of term). Feedback from schools has been overwhelmingly positive and our new volunteer teachers are already making a huge contribution to the teaching team.
Highlights of an action-packed term include the official launch of the new teaching materials on 12th March. Guests included Mary Francis from our funders, BAA Communities Fund, and Cath Allen, one of the authors of the original pack. Marketing of School on the River has been increased as sweeping changes in the National Curriculum come into force in September and Gemma has undertaken an in-depth analysis of the new curriculum, identifying links to School on the River which she has sent on mail-outs to existing and potential client schools.
We have led Outdoor Learning training with student teachers and environmental activities with new client groups of Beavers, Guides and Woodcraft Folk. We ran workshops at the Sustainability, Outdoor Learning and Science Conference in May, and in June we hosted a highly successful weekend residential cruise for the London Environmental Educators’ Forum. These latter events have raised our profile in London and beyond – now everyone knows about the Boat Project!
We will have more to tell you in the Autumn Newsletter at the end of the cruising season.
Jane Newman, Trustee
Know your Trustees!
Richard Robinson has lived in the Richmond area most of his life. He grew up sailing on the Thames (and elsewhere) and was a solicitor with Dixon Ward, solicitors on Richmond Green, for many years, senior partner for a number of them. While working as a solicitor he was involved with advising various charitable trusts, becoming knowledgeable about charity law and also acting as a trustee for some. As Sir Peter Harrop’s neighbour and friend it was probably inevitable that he would find himself involved with the River Thames Boat Project!
Around the time of his retirement in early 2006 he became an RTBP Trustee, later that year becoming Chair, a position he held until early last year. But he hasn’t limited his involvement to that of being a trustee - he is also a volunteer crew and is out there throwing ropes and washing the deck! And he is a strong advocate for the Friends, recruiting new members.
I asked Richard what it was about the Charity that was important to him and he said it is simply that it helps such a wide variety of people in such a special way. I also asked him whether there was a particular highlight from his time as Chair and he said that being involved with the decision to employ a full time skipper and getting Peter Oldham on board was the contribution he was particularly pleased about. The Kaye Pemberton and CH Dixon Charitable Trusts, of which he is also a trustee, made donations to the Boat Project that gave confidence to make the financial commitment – and he remains grateful to the other trustees of those trusts for their support.
After over six years as Chair Richard thought it was time to hand over to someone new who could give a different perspective to the Board and inject some fresh vision, and he was succeeded as Chair by Louise Sibley. But he remains on the Board as our lead Trustee for legal matters and among other things was heavily involved in the arrangements with Kingston Council and NHP for the new mooring at the dock. He said working with the Charity is rewarding and an ever-changing challenge – not to mention the enjoyment of time on the boat and the river!
From the Wheelhouse
We are now happily operating from our new berth, which hasn't gone unnoticed by our clients who like the smooth flat access to the boat. We are looking forward to commissioning the pump out equipment which will complete the facilities at the new mooring.
The season is in full swing, but it feels like I'll only need to blink and it will be over for another year and the boat back in dry dock! Miranda organised a very successful clean-up of Teddington Lock Island with a team of corporate volunteers from Paramount Studios and we are on the lookout for another corporate team to help at dry docking in November.
Our volunteers continue to amaze me with their dedication and the results this brings, whether it be sharing their knowledge while on board, being a cruise companion to our clients, promoting the charity at events, or fundraising. July is a bumper month with the Kingston Regatta, Dragon Boat Regatta, and Teddington Festival.
Things are busy off the boat too - watch out for news of a new fundraising initiative called Give4Sure. This will enable all of us to donate to the Charity through our online shopping.
We look forward to seeing you at one of the forthcoming events.
Peter Oldham, Skipper
A Client Story: T.R.E.E.S.
Over 35 years ago Laurie Wills was taken on a visit to the Saint Ebba’s hospital, a residential hospital for disabled people. Having toured the wards and met many of the residents Laurie decided to raise money to take some of them on an outing to the seaside. He had never done anything like that before, but raised £400 and the outing was on! Out of this came T.R.E.E.S. (The Residents Enjoyment and Entertainment Society), which now runs over 100 events a year for the residents of (now) various care homes throughout Surrey.
T.R.E.E.S. organises activities in the care homes and trips out for the residents. They put on music evenings, magic shows and parties, hire a travelling professional pantomime troupe to put on performances in a local church hall for their clients and arrange outings.
About five years ago Paul Hagen of the charity Choice Support (a major care provider for learning disabled people) asked whether T.R.E.E.S. would be willing to fund some trips on the river and a new RTBP client was born! Paul had been out on the Venturer before and knew how valuable an experience it was for his residents, the majority of whom are profoundly disabled. Paul told me that the relaxing day out in the open air provides valuable stimulus and a change in routine, different smells and sounds (in particular for those with visual impairment), and the wind in their faces in the sunshine (well, sometimes...). He also commented that the Venturer is well equipped for his groups and that Peter and the crew are always very helpful and go out of their way to make it a successful trip.
T.R.E.E.S. is now one of the Charity’s largest client groups having booked 30 trips over the last three years.
Feedback from the T.R.E.E.S. groups:
- We took a group of 6 adults all with a severe learning disability…they had an experience which they found relaxing, undemanding and most of all pleasurable, so much so that one of them was very reluctant to leave at the end of the day and kept trying to pull his supporter back on to the boat as we were making our way to the car park!
- A very sensory experience enjoyed by everybody.
- Everyone who went on the trip said it was brilliant again!!
- On behalf of the T.R.E.E.S. organisation I would like to thank everyone at RTBP for their help, enthusiasm and hard work in making these trips so special and enjoyable for all of the learning disabled children and adults that went on them this year.