Bill Brown volunteers for the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust

I HAVE been involved in voluntary roles throughout my adult life, mainly through churches that I have attended. These included youth work, construction and activities with children at an orphanage in Bulgaria and various leadership roles. This was all in addition to working full-time and bringing up a family.

When I stopped working full-time, I was keen to give something within the charity sector a try. I set up a human resources consultancy and worked with a couple of charities, including a children’s cancer charity. One day in 2016 when my wife and myself were having lunch at Largs Marina, I noticed a poster looking for volunteers for the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and, as I had recently taken up sailing, I contacted them and started volunteering on sailing trips with young people recovering from cancer. I saw this as a great opportunity to combine my newly discovered interest in sailing with doing something significant in the lives of young people.

The purpose of the Trust is to help young people rebuild their confidence after cancer and look towards a positive future. The trips take place after treatment ends and help the young people rebuild their lives. The Trust provides the bridge between treatment and a young person seizing the future they may never have imagined possible.

We run two types of sailing trips. Our four-day trips are a gentle introduction to sailing onboard 38-48ft yachts, whilst encouraging teamwork, enjoying an adventure with new friends and having fun. Our five-day “return to sail” trips take the sailing part a little further and allow the young people to gain more confidence, attain qualifications and develop practical and life skills to put on their CVs.

Shortly after I started volunteering, I realised that sailing is only the means used to achieve significant changes in the lives of the young people who come on trips. It is the conversations on the trip and the activities which bring

them together that have a significant impact on helping them to start rebuilding their confidence.

All logistics are taken care of, including travel to the marinas, in either Largs or Cowes on the Isle of Wight, with a volunteer and others from their hospital, so before they even arrive they have the chance to get to know each other.

After each trip we debrief as a group and share our “best bit, worst bit and funniest bit”. The feedback given includes the sailing, the beautiful scenery, the water fight between the boats, the banter, the games, the laughs and the opportunity to share with people who have gone through the same trauma that they have. I constantly see a marked increase in confidence in many of the young people who come on these trips.

As a volunteer I get so much out of playing a small part in something that is so significant in the journey that young people are undertaking in rebuilding their life after cancer. It is both humbling and satisfying for me personally.

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