Helford River Children’s Sailing Trust
When the Helford River Children’s Sailing Trust (HRCST) started in 1997, its goal was clear: to help more children get involved with watersports, while giving them the opportunity to develop as individuals along the way. Now more than 21 years later, the Trust is still going strong and its next phase will allow it to help more children and their families than ever before.
Presently 660 school children and another 250 holidaymakers per year make use of the HRCST’s boats and courses, but the planned expansion at Trevassack Lake on The Lizard will add another 1,000 people a year to that. What’s more, the changes will make it easier for children of all abilities, including those with additional needs and disabilities, take to the water.
Not long ago this may have seemed like an ambitious goal, but successful applications for funding from the Coastal Communities Fund and the Rural Development Programme for England totalling almost £2m mean the Trust can press ahead with work on the expansion. The grand opening of their fully-accessible watersports centre and adapted holiday lodges at Trevassack Lake is planned for March 2021.
Finding an all-important critical friend in Access to Finance
When Helen Bishop-Stephens, Fundraising Manager for HRCST, engaged with Access to Finance seeking support to help grow the Trust, it was already well established in the local community and was helping a large number of local children of various age groups and abilities learn to sail. But the plan was to expand facilities to allow year-round sailing and watersports activities and cater to children with a wider range of needs that couldn’t access the Trust’s lessons on the Helford River.
Helen worked closely with Jackie George, a Business Finance Specialist at Access to Finance. Jackie played a vital role supporting HRCST as the Trust applied for the grants needed to make the next stage of development become a reality.
As well as helping to point out which funds may be available for the Trust, Jackie spent time helping them understand the criteria so that the guidelines for submitting applications were carried out to the letter. In Helen’s words:
“Jackie’s role as a ‘critical friend’ was really important. She’s very clear that we know our business, we know what we want to achieve and that we ‘owned’ the application – it’s her role to facilitate that. She made sure we kept on track and challenged us in a constructive way: ‘Have you communicated what you want to achieve, have you got down to the essentials?’ And just going over the rubric of the EU funding proposal, and steering us through a lengthy set of guidelines, which she obviously knows really, really well, helped hugely. She gave us the right encouragement to keep going through quite a demanding process.”
HRCST’s CEO Simon Osborne feels Jackie’s work was key:
“The help that Jackie gave us was essential for succeeding – the time that she put in and the critical knowledge about the grants and the process involved. The fact that she, and her colleague Chris Oliver, would look at the details to make sure the numbers were all in the right places and laid out in the format required by the RDPE. It was really impressive; she went above and beyond.”
A first for Cornwall (and the rest of the country)
There are a number of things that make the Trust’s inclusive water sports offering special, including giving kids sufficient time to master a skill rather than simply experience something through a taster session. But soon, HRCST’s offering will make it not just unique for the county, but also help establish it as something unmatched across the country.
The planned expansion will make it easier for families of all abilities to come and experience the open water for themselves from further afield, thanks to the addition of accommodation lodges that cater for those with disabilities, as Simon Osborne explains:
“There is very limited accessible accommodation in Cornwall; little specifically designed for wheelchair users and people with really high needs. This should bring in visitors to Cornwall that can then access all of the other activities that are on offer, which are increasing – which is part of what the grant is all about really.
It’s a particularly high dependency set-up that we’re providing with hoists and adapted accommodation right next to the activity. We’ve brought something different and unique that we hope many people will experience and appreciate.”
A lasting legacy
To the children that take part in sailing lessons with HRCST already, and those yet to have experienced it for themselves, the activities offered by the HRCST are so much more than just a pastime. They build the confidence, competence and resilience that will go on to be invaluable assets later on in life, all offered free, or at low cost, without the financial barrier historically associated with sailing, so that everyone can take part.
“We work with some children with additional needs already,” said Simon. “The sport really gives them an opportunity to experience independence for the first time, and it’s huge just to get on water.
“If you’re a wheelchair user and then you have the ability to steer using the power of the wind, you can imagine the benefits… it’s very hard to quantify, but you can understand how that might feel. It’s that freedom to go and do something that’s a challenge that enables them to realise what they can go and achieve.”
The main Learning Centre will allow the Trust to operate for more of the year than previously possible, with heated changing rooms and facilities to cater to children and adults with high levels of needs. This also means a wider range of people will be able to take part than ever before.
Income from the accommodation and holiday activities will allow the charity to continue to offer bursaries and free water sports to children, staying true to its roots but on a much larger scale than previously thought possible.
“Working with the HRCST team on their recent funding applications to the RDPE Growth Programme and Coastal Communities Fund has been an absolute pleasure. The Trust has a very clear vision of what it wants to achieve. My role has been to assist them in putting this well laid out plan into the words and format that the funders would understand and to ensure that it met the funding criteria. My ‘critical friend’ role helped them focus on the message that they should be putting across to the funders.
The enthusiasm and dedication of all involved with the charity is admirable and I wish them all the very best for their future at Trevassack Lake”. – Jackie George, Access to Finance Grant Specialist