In March 2009, the Challenge Wales sail training charity launched and over the years the Charity has provided many opportunities to thousands of young people helping them broaden their horizons, giving them the first step into a marine career and helping them develop to their full potential.
Sail training is about developing young people at sea through the development of life skills and it wasn’t anything new when Challenge Wales started out. Sail training on tall ships and small ships happens worldwide (check out Sail Training International who organise the Tall Ships Races for more on that) but having this opportunity in Wales started to open doors to individuals, groups, young people and adults who then saw the impact of sail training and the positive benefits it gives to the individual and subsequently families, employees and society as well as our amazing volunteers.
The flagship vessel; Challenge Wales | Wales Tall Ship and probably the largest sailing yacht in Wales at 72-ft was joined by 60-ft Adventure Wales a few years ago and thousands of young people have jumped onboard between them. Voyages range from one-day accredited youth development and life-skills voyages, to residentials of 2 days, 5 days and up to 17 days. Voyages have seen the boats sail locally within Wales, to Ireland and Scotland and as far a field as Finland, Norway and Southern Spain as part of our youth development work.
Our boats are the vehicle for youth work, and although onlookers may simply see a bunch of people sailing, many of those onboard have faced or are facing challenges in their life. Working as a team, develops confidence and communication skills, we help new leaders flourish, we develop resilient individuals and improve their mental health. The Challenge Wales sail training programme develops based on the needs of young people and over the past 14 years, it certainly has and continues to. We’ve brought science to life through STEM activities, we’ve opened up people’s eyes to ocean literacy and the importance of the ocean and the damage marine litter can cause, we take part in citizen science projects and collaborate where we can.
The Challenge Wales charity though wouldn’t be the charity it is without its amazing super-duper volunteers who crew the boats, help fundraise and assist with maintenance. It’s hard work but the rewards are in the faces of the young people who jump onboard who ‘change’ in front of our eyes as they rise to the challenge and the feedback we get after a voyage.
From representing Wales and the young people of Cardiff at the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant on the Thames in 2012, to winning the UK Sail Training Vessel of the year in 2017 and the international award of Sail Training Organisation of the year in 2019. This is due to the amazing work we do, the impact that we have and all the people involved.
So, why does sail training work? Through our own independent evaluation over 3 years and wider industry research our Theory of Change helps us understand the impact of our activities on our beneficiaries. The benefits of sail training activities are intensified and accelerated (happening quicker than a regular weekly activity); it’s isolated (away from the home) and this can cause behaviours to change – little to no social media, no peer pressure, and participants are living and focussed on the ‘now’; it’s a different experience where socially diverse individuals come together; it’s a real experience – actions have real consequences and a real purpose. Sail training activities in general focus on personal development, social development and skills and through this it engages young people into learning, helps them develop a ‘can-do’ attitude, higher aspirations and in the longer term evidenced to improve wellbeing, improve educational attainment, improve employability prospects and improved long term life chances.
Sail training though requires funding and an income, like any organisation and like any other charity. With the cost of living crisis and Covid seeing some funders change their priorities, more charities requiring funding, and with funders not having enough funding to support everyone that needs it, it is a tough world out there. And, that’s why Challenge Wales opens up its sailing activities periodically for adults and corporates of all (or none) sailing experience to jump onboard for big boat sailing, for racing, for opportunities to improve their sailing confidence and skills and for leadership activities. With all profits being donated to the Challenge Wales charity it’s a great way to support a charity on your own or with friends while having fun.
Who knows what this year, next year or the next 14 years will bring. But if you want to be part of this journey as a volunteer, young person, business, supporter or friend of Challenge Wales then please do get in touch. Your involvement will really make a big difference.
But don’t just take our word for it, we thought we would ask what others thought about us over the years, so take a peak below. Happy Sailing and Fair Winds!
Paul Glaze, CEO of Council Of Wales Voluntary Youth Service (CWVYS): “Challenge Wales was one of the first organisations I visited when I started at CWVYS. That occasion has stayed with me for several reasons: I encountered Vicky Williams’s [Trustee] passion and commitment to the Challenge Wales cause; learned how a group of incredibly hardworking volunteers turned their spare time spent on corporate ventures into invaluable, transformational and mainly free of charge opportunities for young people. Oh, and Challenge Wales applied for, and were successful in achieving, CWVYS Membership – and they continue to be valued Members still.
Since then, we have been delighted to see how Challenge Wales has expanded and grown whilst remaining true to its youth work roots: supporting the personal and social development of young people from across Wales and developing key partnerships with voluntary youth work organisations and with local authority youth work teams. In addition, Kerry Rees [Challenge Wales Youth Development Officer] is a hugely active and supportive member of CWVYS activities: as Vice-Chair of our Workforce Development Group and Safeguarding sub-group plus attendance at our Regional Group meetings – ensuring that the strategic and operational links are maintained and strengthened.
Happy 14th Birthday, teenage Challenge Wales!
Challenge Wales is a great youth development organisation. Why?
Lieutenant Nick Woodhouse, School Staff Instructor said: “Challenge Wales has helped to ensure that our pupils here at Treorchy Comprehensive School have independent and interdependence learning skills through outdoor learning, used in a range of ways, this enriches the curriculum and makes learning fun, meaningful and relevant for young people. Outdoor learning projects ‘cynefin’ deliver sustainable development, each outdoor learning opportunity allows children and young people the chance to explore new places and share experiences whilst working with others.”
To find out more, you can email the Challenge Wales team or call the office on 029 20 704657