19 October 2016 - 5:02pm
A group of people overcoming homelessness have enjoyed a trip of a lifetime thanks to The Salvation Army and the Cirdan Sailing Trust.
Residents and staff from The Salvation Army's Swan Lodge Lifehouse in Sunderland took part in a seven-day sailing trip off the coast of Scotland.
Administrator Craig Hilton, a former resident of Swan Lodge himself, organised the trip by securing funding from the Cirdan Sailing Trust's Voyage of Discovery fund and by helping service users raise the rest.
The seven residents and two members of staff were also supported by The Salvation Army's community church in Oban, who put them up for the night and helped them out locally with where to get vital supplies.
The gruelling trip was no holiday for the residents and staff who were joined by a professional three-man crew as they rolled up their sleeves doing shifts of three hours on, six hours off.
Craig praised the group of men and women, aged from 34 to 55, for overcoming their own fears and issues to come together and achieve something “truly inspiring”.
He said: "I've never experienced such a mixture of emotions, from complete and utter exhilaration and fear, through our own inadequacies, to the joy of seeing the vessel cutting through the waves.
"It was made possible by the generosity of the Cirdan Sailing Trust and we are grateful to them for their incredible support.
"We had a diverse group of men and women of all ages, many of who have issues such as substance misuse and mental health problems. They came together with our staff and the crew of the vessel to do all the things needed, such as taking bearings, ensuring safety procedures were followed, plotting navigations in the chart room, and steering. It was a proper sailing journey and we worked in shifts of three hours on and six hours off. The sleep deprivation was challenging but we all pitched in to support each other.
"One of the residents was so petrified at first that he was crawling around the ship on his hands and knees. But by the end of the trip he was hanging off the side like a professional.
"Before we even set foot on the vessel there was the six-hour drive to get up to Oban. Luckily The Salvation Army team there looked after us and put us up for the night. We owe church leader Cath Sheldrick and volunteer Andy Finlayson a huge debt of thanks for their support and hospitality.
"We were also blessed with the most amazing weather. It rained all the way up in the mini bus and we feared the worst for our trip but from the first morning of sailing to the last we had sunshine and clear blue skies.
"It's an incredible part of the world and I hope to make another trip back up at some point in the not-too-distant future. We sailed past Skye and Tobermory, and saw incredible scenery and stunning wildlife.
"There's no doubt we were all out of our comfort zone but the transformation I saw in the group was incredible. I was humbled and proud to be part of it."
Skipper Ed Humphries said: “Most of our usual trainees are young people so it made a nice change to work with an adult group, especially when the individuals faced the challenges of life at sea head on. Not only did we all enjoy some lovely weather and great sailing, but instructions were followed, chores taken care of and food was served on time. What more could we ask for? Well done to all.”