Largest sail training charity finally sets sail

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Scotland’s largest sail-training charity has recommenced its youth work on the waves this week – following a 15-month wait on the shores of Greenock.

Ocean Youth Trust Scotland, which regularly visits Arran, supports more than 800 young people each year through life-changing residential youth work at sea, set sail on Wednesday with a group of young people from St Paul’s Youth Forum in Glasgow.

This will be the Inverclyde-based charity’s first voyage since the pandemic struck in March 2020.

The voyage is funded by the Scottish government’s cashback for communities programme – an initiative that reinvests criminal assets into life-changing community projects.

The 12-month programme encompasses elements of land-based youth work activity in schools, and residential activity delivered in a unique sail training environment.

Young people are taught about risk-taking behaviours on land and at sea, while taking part in activities that nurture confidence, resilience, teamwork and personal and social skills.

While unable to deliver youth work at sea during the pandemic, Ocean Youth Trust Scotland successfully adapted its youth work model to deliver a pioneering shore-based support programme, an approach lauded by MSP Stuart MacMillan.

It has worked with young people, including those from St Paul’s Youth Forum, Action for Children, REACH and the GK Experience, via activities including white water tubing, archery, orienteering, crate climbing and kayaking.

Barry McLaughlin, the trust’s dedicated youth development worker, said: ‘The voyages funded by cashback for communities are specifically to support young people and communities most at risk of being affected by crime.

‘But in the wake of the pandemic, we’re aware of the social benefits our work will also bring.

‘Studies continue to show the devastating impact that lockdown has had on the mental health of young people in Scotland.

‘Getting these young people outdoors, learning life skills and trying new activities in a safe and structured environment will help them emerge from the pandemic more resilient and on track for more positive life destinations.’