The refurbishment of the Ellen Gee Narrow Boat will enable the Trust to give families, young people, the community and volunteers the chance to be part of a unique experience in the middle of Birmingham and help the trust re-launch a well-loved boat once owned by Birmingham Youth Service. There will be the opportunity to get involved with working the boat and gain new skills. This includes helping to steer and learning how to operate the locks along the way. We will offer the opportunity for learning how to help plan the route and navigate when experiencing residential trips. The boat will provide an alternative community space for young and old alike.
What we are trying to achieve
The project will enable the trust to support the most vulnerable members of the community who present with many personal challenges. Integral to our health & wellbeing services the boat will be a safe haven, reducing stress and depression over time, providing an alternative 'therapy' to mainstream health services. Travelling along the waterways is a calming experience and offers an escape from the usual pressures daily life brings. The boat accommodates 12 at any one time so activities will be in small groups based around emotional well-being and providing opportunity for individual attention as well as facilitating a self- help and empowering approach. This reduces the probability and likelihood of developing those ‘risk factors’ that are associated with requiring a clinical intervention.
The Trust are striving to bring people together, through active participation, those in the community experiencing loneliness, isolation, socially excluded or just needing peace and time away. The learning of new skills, through the potential volunteering opportunities on the boat, helps develop confidence and potentially employment. Taking part in volunteering helps with physical health as it gets you out of the house and active which, if more physically healthy, reduces stress. Building social connections and meeting people helps to relieve stress and anxiety which helps to reduce depression. The experience also supports emotional well-being as it helps to develop self-esteem and self-worth and is mentally stimulating. Being healthier and happier reduces the likelihood of developing long term, debilitating illnesses and therefore reducing the demand on the need for medical support.
We want to provide an Outdoor Educational experience for school children and specially to give those pupils who have difficulty coping in a traditional classroom or educational environment, alternative ways of learning. This will give them the opportunity to connect with nature, learn about our City’s heritage, and give those who may need the quiet space to be nurtured and supported to learn. This helps pupils develop resilience and the ability to cope. The activities provided will support children to manage and self-regulate their behaviour and own feelings, leading to increased self-confidence, self-reliance and a positive mental attitude. This helps reduce the likelihood of children being excluded from mainstream education, if their behaviour were to continue.
What makes our project great?
Our project will provide young children and families an experience they are unlikely to have had prior to coming to St Paul’s or from living in the city. Many of our families and the community do not have the opportunity to go beyond their neighbourhood. Having the boat available, moored less than 3 miles away, enables the trust to provide a different experience. Being able to provide residential opportunities but close by, provides reassurance to local parents who are anxious about their children staying away from home.
The project is innovative as the boat forms part of our health & well-being services at the trust that also includes: a city farm; community centre and children’s centre. Families have access to a package of support and suite of services to support their different health needs both physical, emotional and psychological. Our volunteering scheme is already well established and has had very positive outcomes.
Who we are and what’s our experience
St. Paul’s has since 1973 worked alongside Balsall Heath and Birmingham communities, providing education, recreation and life-long learning to some of the most vulnerable groups within society. Situated in one of England’s top 10% deprived wards, we aim to improve opportunities and quality of life for all accessing our services.
A range of community education services are provided by the Trust for children, young people and families including: One of the largest Children’s Centres in the City with several nursery settings; Independent School for pupils excluded from mainstream education;play services and out of hour provision; urban farm; youth employment programme; adult training, parenting programmes and volunteer programme.
St Paul's Community Development Trust had transfer of ownership of the Ellen Gee, from Birmingham Youth Services, in December 2010. Youth and community groups have had the opportunity to experience education, environment, residential and leisure activities aboard the 70ft narrow boat, moored at Hockley Port.
Hundreds of young people in Birmingham will have fond memories of these experiences aboard what was then named Youth Afloat, along with the skipper John Welsh.
St Paul’s Trust want to provide those opportunities again and make it possible for children, young people, families and the community to experience what it is like to travel along the canal. Seeing the Inner City from a different angle and experiencing the tranquillity and peace the waterways has to offer.
How will we spend the money?
We are raising £30,000 for this major project. We need to fully refurbish the interior of the boat to make it fit for purpose and suit the needs of different ages and needs of those using it. We want the boat to be a positive and fun experience and it needs to be safe and comfortable while offering flexibility and versatility.
Our initial rewards
Initial rewards include opportunity to enter a prize competition to win a trip or residential on the boat.