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Aroundtown MEETS Then it’s back to it as the return leg of the


journey begins before the day finishes at 2pm. Alongside the day trips, the Ethel also plays


host to residential stays where young people are able to have a sense of freedom and fun for a couple of days. One school in particular who have benefitted


from the service is Wilsic Hall Residential School in Doncaster whose students come from across the country and have profound learning disabilities, engagement difficulties or mental health problems. Due to the severity of the conditions faced


Steering


by some pupils, other recreation providers have found the school too challenging to work with. But around five years ago, the Ethel Trust approached the school to offer their support and free service and have since formed a strong working partnership. Last year, Ethel held her first sensory


residential for a couple of Wilsic Hall students with acute autism. Working with the school’s activity


Winding the locks The team were busy working with Unlocking


Confidence project co-ordinator, Tim Miskell, who joined the trust 13 years ago following a long- serving career in the police force. Also there on the day was a group of children


from Woolley Wood School in Parson Cross who were enjoying their lunch after a busy morning. Offering a different learning experience from that in the classroom, the barge trips help students feel at one with nature. Starting at 10am, a typical day trip sees Tim


meet the group and undertake a risk assessment to gauge the group’s age, behaviour and health issues as well as practicalities of getting on and off the boat. With safety the quay to the day’s success,


Tim then interacts with the group to help them understand the dangers of the water and how to listen to and interpret instructions given. Once life jackets are secured it’s time to set


sail along the Don. Whether passing old factories along the


winter urban route or leafy scenery that lines the summer countryside route, there are various opportunities for the children to get off the barge and help unwind the locks or operate bridges. On mooring up for lunch, the group then


get the chance to turn the cabin into a mobile classroom and talk about some of the things spotted during the morning. From local history and transport to ecology and geography, relevant topics can be intertwined with the hands-on experience to extend language, communication and learning along the way. For community groups such as Young


Carers or CLIC Sargent cancer charity, this free time enables the young people to talk about any issues they are facing in the solace of the serene cabin.


co-ordinator, Sue Hunter, the crew dressed Ethel up with lights, streamers and bunting and played calming music which worked in harmony with the barge’s authentic sights and sounds. Sue also set up foot baths and performed reflexology for the students to relax them. Usually, the two students can’t engage for longer than 20 minutes and staff at Wilsic were


‘‘From teamwork and health and safety around water to hygiene and preparing meals, the experience also allows the children and young people to get hands on with steering the boat or opening the locks’’


doubtful they would get as far as the residential itself. However, thanks to a joint effort between Sue and the crew, they remained focussed until 8pm and were drawn to the peacefulness of their surroundings. The residential stays also give the children


and young people the opportunity to experience everyday situations they may not necessarily do at home including things we take for granted like going out for a pub meal or helping prepare food for the BBQ. Life skills such as sharing, taking turns,


working as a team and laughing together are all part and parcel of the experience. As too are transferrable skills like gaining trust in others, listening to the crew and following instructions, all of which can only enhance their futures. One of the major advantages of the residential


trips is the chance to spend some time away from the comfort and security of their homes. A liberating time for most young people with set routines and structured lives, this change from normality is often received with very little anxiety, cruising towards new optimism. For one young lad, sharing a cabin and


sleeping in a different bed also brought with it an Opening the locks


AROUND TOWN


unexpected positive, having two consecutive dry nights for the first time in his life. As Sue Hunter so rightly says, the students


have become proud of their achievements no matter how big or small. “Ethel Barge gives our young people the


opportunity to succeed in new tasks and it is great to see those more anxious among the group physically relax thanks to the calming atmosphere and scenery. The students embrace the tranquillity, watch the bubbles and feel the hum of the engine. “All have happy memories of their time


onboard and we are so grateful to the amazing crew who give their precious time to run the trips. They are our superheroes.” In order to inspire more young people and


give hope to others, the Ethel Trust relies solely on donations and are currently funded by everyone from local charities to BBC Children in Need which allows them to continue to provide trips on Ethel free of charge. Earlier this year, one student from Wilsic Hall


enjoyed his trip that much that his parents asked for donations for their 25th wedding anniversary instead of presents, giving the trust £550 to allow the service to carry on and help others like their son.


Navigating


For more information about Ethel Trust, how to get involved or to enquire about their Unlocking Confidence project, visit their website www.etheltrust.co.uk


aroundtownmagazine.co.uk 5


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