Friends of RTBP Winter Newsletter
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Dear Friends of the River Thames Boat Project,
Winter is upon us and it's just as well that the cruising season is over as the Environment Agency website shows solid red boards and may do so for some time to come. The AGM has been and gone (it was nice to see some of you there) and there is an article below from Peter Low about the exciting new plans for the Charity which were agreed at the AGM. If you fancy a bit of exercise and fresh air on 9 March you can do that while raising funds for the Charity - see the article about the sponsored walk below. We also thought it would be fun to get together for an evening over a curry (less fresh air and exercise, but warmer!) so please take a look at the article in the sidebar about that and plan to come along.
And finally Happy Birthday to the Newsletter - this is the fifth issue, the first was a year ago!
The Charity is holding a sponsored walk on Sunday 9 March to raise money towards Accessing the Thames, our programme for people with disabilities. The aim is to raise £5,000, so we need lots of walkers and lots of sponsors! The six mile route starts at the Venturer in Kingston at 10:30 and goes through Bushy Park, past Hampton Court Palace and along the river Thames. When you return to the Venturer refreshments will be served to quench your thirst. To take part you need to register with the Boat Project and receive your registration number and sponsorship pack - please email email@example.com.To set up your own online sponsorship page please go to Virgin Money Giving and follow their guide. You can tell your friends what it is that is special about the Boat Project for you, set yourself a fundraising goal and email the link to family and friends. Virgin Money Giving will work out the gift aid and transfer your sponsors' donations into our account - simples! We really hope you can join us on Sunday 9 March - it will be fun!
The Way Ahead
Time marches on and inevitably the point has come when we must contemplate retiring the Thames Venturer - she is now 105 years old. We believe that changes to the Safety Of Life At Sea regulations (SOLAS) will mean that our licence as a passenger carrier may not be renewed without considerable expense in the foreseeable future. We are also finding that some modern wheelchairs are too large for the chairlift that was fitted 25 years ago. Other modifications would enable us to offer more hands-on experience to our clients, from active involvement in running the boat to possible supplementary activities for kids. We would also like to be more ambitious with our environmental education facilities.
After consideration of these issues there was a unanimous vote at the AGM in November in favour of starting to plan for a new boat. This could cost in the order of £300,000, depending on fittings and what facilities we want it to provide. We must first draw up a specification for what we want in a replacement boat and then approach a designer to create an outline plan so that it can be costed. We will then have a monetary target to work towards.
We are also making an approach to Pilotlight, a City Trust which supports and advises small charities such as ours to develop and deliver their strategic and business plans. If accepted, a team of four Pilotlighters would be formed in order to help us over a one year period. An experienced project manager facilitates each project ensuring that work remains focused and effective.
Overall our aim is to maintain local community focus while we also look for clients from further afield, with steady, sustainable growth attracting funding from multiple sources. We will keep you informed as things progress and will be asking for your help with our fundraising!
School on the River
As many of you will know, in December 2012 City Bridge, the City of London Corporation’s charity, awarded us a grant of £86,000 over three years to fund a part-time Environmental Education Co-ordinator. As a result, in April we were able to appoint Gemma Hindi to develop our School on the River programme. Gemma’s years of experience in the environmental education sector and her work as an Eco-Schools Assessor and Consultant have enabled the Charity to move forward very rapidly in the last eight months as a provider of environmental education.
Our popular School on the River programme, aimed at children aged 7-11, is a very effective way of extending a powerful environmental message to children, their parents and teachers, helping young people to value their environment and to understand their role in helping to look after it. Since April we have reached 1,012 young people and School on the River bookings account for a quarter of total bookings this season, extending the use of Thames Venturer well beyond the cruising season.
We have also reached out to the wider community, developing informal environmental activities for local Beaver and Cub groups and a risk assessment training programme for student teachers, aimed at encouraging them to feel confident about involving their pupils in outdoor learning activities. All these have been successfully trialled this year.
Most exciting of all – we now have our new-look, updated teaching pack, trialled successfully by seven schools in the autumn and supplied in electronic format, allowing us to make changes if needed to respond to new National Curriculum requirements in the future. We also have six splendid new volunteer teachers, recruited and trained in the summer, who have greatly enjoyed their work with School on the River this term and are already spreading the word to other potential teachers! Our heartfelt thanks go to all our volunteer teachers and to the fantastic crew members who help and support the sessions, reinforcing the experience of learning in a ‘floating classroom’ which is so exciting for our visiting children.
What next? Our future plans
Gemma has already started raising our environmental profile in the community, arranging for a School on the River presence at a recent Schools’ Environment Conference, and organising family activities at the Kingston and Teddington river festivals. We already have a number of potential new client schools interested in our next exciting project, a completely new education programme of hands-on, innovative activities designed to help young people understand how to live more sustainably, using Thames Venturer as a model of sustainable living through the need to manage finite resources on board. We will keep you informed as this progresses.
And we need more SOR crew. This is a different kind of ‘crewing’ to that needed when the boat is cruising. No rope throwing or physical strength required - you will be working with the children under the guidance of the teachers, shoreside sessions as well as on the boat. This is a wider opportunity to get involved with the Charity and if you are interested or know someone who is, please email Gemma (firstname.lastname@example.org).
It was great to meet some of you at the AGM in November and we are grateful for your interest and support. 2014 promises to be another very exciting year for School on the River.
Lead Trustee for Education
A Client Story
HANDS is one of our longest standing clients. We asked Maureen Payan, who started HANDS many years ago and led its services until recently, what the Boat Project has meant to them.
Thank you for suggesting that I write to tell you of the treasured connection HANDS has enjoyed with the Venturer for many years.
Christmas 1977 saw the birth of ‘HANDS’ (Help A Neighbour in Distress Scheme), formed in response to an increasing need for practical help and support beyond what is available from statutory sources. Our aim was, and remains, to improve the quality of life for mainly elderly people trying to survive alone in their own dwellings.
We provide all kinds of practical help, but also encourage our clients to enjoy what the community has to offer in the way of outings and treats. Some never get out at all, but small groups regularly derive great pleasure from three annual river trips on the Venturer. These never fail to delight. Other such activities have included visits to the local theatre, parks, Kew Gardens and picnics.
We took our first nine clients and three volunteers out on the Venturer on one of its earliest voyages to Shepperton, not missing a year since. The appeal to housebound and isolated people comes from companionship in the fresh air, and a gentle cruising pace to gaze on river views, boats, trees, wildlife, and gardens. An adventure and a magical escape from four walls at home, in particular for those unable to walk unaided. We meet at Kingston Dock to be greeted by Skipper Peter and his trained volunteer crew who help us aboard. The day starts with coffee and biscuits in the saloon while Peter gives us a chat on the facilities available, on safety and on the trip itself. Then up on deck by lift to be made comfortable with cushions and blankets or sun cream and hats, but if the weather is inclement we can sit in the wheelhouse.
Our two cooks take to the galley, while Nualan does deck duty seeing to people’s needs and helping them to walk the “plank” (or deck) to prevent joint stiffness. We cruise down the river enjoying the sights and chatting. The journey is colourful and interesting. At lunchtime everyone, crew included, enjoy a hot lunch around a long table in the saloon laid with a white cloth for our traditional shepherd’s pie (note from Martha - Maureen’s shepherd’s pie is legendary among the crew!) followed by such as strawberries and trifle. There is the all-important pleasure of chatting at table. Back on deck we take tea and home baked cakes before arriving back at 5pm. Our group is tired but happy, full of gratitude for a very special day out and eager to come again. They have benefited from companionship and from being cared for all day.
The boat is very well designed and safe to accommodate wheelchairs and walking aids. We are glad of the new awning and cushions. The crew, led by Peter, is helpful and well organised and we feel safe. We also enjoy seeing them interacting with our clients who have little chance to meet people in the normal way. Coming from our savings we feel the cost is justified by the trips' true value to our clients.
Thanks to our Corporate Friends
Late last year we announced our second Corporate Friend, Cargostore. We are extremely grateful to Paul Barry, long term trustee and treasurer of the River Thames Boat Project (and Managing Director of Cargostore) for his organisation’s support. As a global supplier of shipping containers, Paul regularly flies around the world, making his support for the Charity and attendance at board meetings even more impressive.
We are also delighted to announce that Al Jazy Shipping, our founding Corporate Friend, has made a further generous donation of £5,000. This will play a vital part in the Charity's development plans for the future.
We hope to have more Corporate Friends news in the next newsletter.
Anyone interested in joining our Corporate Friends program or has a suggestion of whom we might contact, please let Paul Boyd know: email@example.com
The New Breed of Volunteers
There’s never been a better time to volunteer with the Boat Project – so much to enjoy, to share, and to get a sense of achievement from. Many volunteers come to us from word of mouth or as locals walking past and wondering what do they do exactly? Many are drawn to us by the boat itself, but these days crewing is only a small part of the overall contribution a volunteer can make.
So where are our new breed of volunteers and what are they up too? Some are old hands spreading their wings and some are new to us and volunteering.
Julian joined 2 years ago as a volunteer crew, let slip he was interested in computers, and is now the software designer for our crew roster and volunteer management system – quite a task when you need to match 70 volunteers with over 130 activities each year!! And the reason why he won our ‘Brush of Brilliance’ volunteer award this year. Now who can we find to help with our website and social media?
Sometimes a plea for help brings new skills to the charity, as was the case when we asked for cooks for our catered trips Linking People Afloat. Linda and Anthea answered the call and enjoyed it so much they went on to help cater at our crew summer supper and Friends events. Three cheers for the cooks!!
School on the River has grown out of all recognition from its infancy in 2000 and with its growth has come the need for more volunteer teachers and a different kind of ‘crew’. See the article above about SOR volunteering.
Sometimes being bow crew with the right person can lead to unexpected consequences as was the case for John Frye. After many happy years crewing he was introduced to the idea of his skills becoming the core of a social enterprise to raise money for the project. So was born Venturer Photography and a new volunteer - his wife Jacqui! - who kindly volunteered to cater for these trips. Feeling he could do more, John’s business network group then organised and ran a successful salsa dinner and dance with half the money raised donated to the project. Not unsurprisingly John won our ‘Core of Commitment’ volunteer award this year.
Which reminds me of another…. your editor!! After many years of dedicated service, relocation meant that Martha wouldn’t be able to crew anymore. She still wanted to be involved but it needed some lateral thinking to come up with her new role – Newsletter Editor which she excels at! So much more is possible with the connectivity of the internet. So what could you do ?
This year another relocation meant that we said farewell to Pat Betsworth who was everyone’s favourite crewmate. Pat has also left a vacancy for that new breed of volunteer – a public speaker!! There are many many local groups that organise a speaker for their meetings and Pat was a Boat Project speaker – raising funds through her talks as well as new clients from the best reference of all, word of mouth.
Perhaps YOU have your own interesting story or would be happy to tell tales of the river to these groups on our behalf. If so, why not become a new breed of volunteer...
Creating a Team
Since the re-launch of the Friends in November 2012 we have achieved good progress. Most of the time that is measured in terms of raising money for the charity.
But there is another measure of success which is at the core of why we have been able to achieve so much - the creating of a dedicated team of Friends who make it happen. Those who volunteer their time and effort to the Friends, who roll up their sleeves and get on with the hard work. They make our events a success, they undertake our administration, they make plans and they run our communications.
I confess I did ask one of them to write this article; that didn't go down well - but it was a good try!
You will have read elsewhere in this newsletter about the big challenges for the Charity in the future. The Friends are an integral part of that future. We share those challenges and we are at the forefront of the changes.
To everyone on the team, a huge thank you. And if you would like to come and join us, please let me know. There is always more work to be done, more articles to be written!