Surrey Care Trust Boat Volunteers chairman David Aldous
We interveiw David Aldous from the award-winning Surrey Care Trust, whose community boats do so much for the county’s disadvantaged
1 What does the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service represent to Surrey Care Trust? It is a prestigious award which gives well-deserved recognition of everyone involved in the programme who, in many cases, has worked tirelessly to improve local people’s lives for many years. 2 How many volunteers take part? There are 68 active volunteers aged between 35 to 80. 3 Where do your volunteers come from? From Tandridge in the east of the county to Waverley in the west. 4 What’s the charity’s driving force? We want Surrey to be a place where the vulnerable and socially excluded are not held back by lack of opportunity. We aim to inspire people to make positive changes that will last a lifetime by bridging the gaps in skills, learning and one to one support. 5 Which canals and waterways do you cruise? The River Wey Navigation and The Thames and occasionally the Basingstoke Canal. 6 What does your fleet comprise? Swingbridge1, a 40ft broadbeam boat with an all-weather canopy, offers training and trips. It is equipped with a galley, a toilet and a wheelchair lift. Swingbridge2 is a broadbeam workboat and is our base for our conservation volunteering and training. Our boats are accredited as a training centre by the National Community Boats Association. 7 How was the trust founded
Surrey Care Trust has a long track record of service to the community and has been providing expert support to some of the most disadvantaged people in Surrey since 1982 when we were among a number of local care trusts with general charitable aims set up around the country. The founding aims of Surrey Care Trust, to help people who are the most disadvantaged, still motivate our supporters, volunteers and staff today. 8 So it’s true, waterways are great for wellbeing? Many studies have shown that being outside can ease anxiety, fight depression, and lower blood pressure. One of our supported volunteers Kevin credits his time on Swingbridge2 with aiding his recovery from his brain injury and lowering his risk of a seizure. 9 How is the project received by the community? Swingbridge1 is fully accessible so it enables many older or disabled people to enjoy a relaxing trip on the river who may otherwise not be able to which is very much appreciated by our passengers. (Last year we offered almost 100 two-hour trips). We’ve also had a lot of praise from local riparian communities who can see the positive improvements by our Swingbridge2 volunteers. 10 What’s enviroboat? the role of your Our enviroboat, Swingbridge2, is the base for training and volunteering in environmental conservation. Trained volunteer crew work with our supported volunteers who may be unemployed or poorly-qualified, have mild learning difficulties or mental health problems, or who may be recovering from addictions. Our crew also work with offenders carrying out community payback. They make a valuable contribution to the local environment and learn new skills. 11 How does the Steps to 16 The STEPS work? to 16 alternative education programme, based at our Learning Centre in Woking, gives a second chance to 14 to 16 year-olds struggling in school. They may be coping with other problems in their lives and often they will have had extremely poor attendance at their schools, and have missed out on large long periods of education. Students from the programme join our volunteer crew on training trips on Swingbridge1 to help build their confidence, acquire new skills and learn how to work as a team. 12 How do you see the future of the canal network? There is still a growing demand for the use of the canal networks for leisure purposes so the future in many ways looks good. The main problem is that canal networks depend upon public money to some extent to be kept in good condition. At a time of austerity there seems to be a mismatch between demand and capacity to provide resources. The Basingstoke Canal is the perfect example. It is loved by many, it suffers from a very poor water supply due to mistakes made when it was constructed. There has never been enough money to remedy this unfortunately. 13 What do the waterways need to change? We need to resolve the tensions between conflict of interests and demand. Specifically between being a leisure provider and an environmental resource. 14 Have you ever fallen in?
No, thankfully but if I did then I would be comforted by the knowledge that we regularly rehearse retrievals! 15 What are your fondest memories on the cut? My fondest memory on Swingbridge1 was taking out three children in wheelchairs together with their carers and watching the look of joy on each of their faces. Each child’s chair was fitted with additional medical equipment and the children were restricted in movement but it did not stop them from having fun and noticing the wildlife and experiencing the excitement of going through a lock. 16 What would you like to see happen to the waterways in your lifetime? To continue to provide the facility for people to enjoy boating or just watching others on the water when strolling along the towpath. 17 How do ex-prisoners react to project? Providing placements for offenders carrying out community payback is a constructive way for offenders to serve their sentence, working alongside our volunteers. 18 What is your proudest achievement? The team’s efforts being recognised by a Queen’s Award for Volunteering! 19 What did you want to be aged 12? At 12, I was a Sea Scout messing about in boats on the Thames so something to do with boats I expect! 20 Where in Britain would you like to sail next? Our local waterways – they have so much to offer and provide an oasis of peace and quiet in a very busy part of the country.
We aim to inspire people to make positive changes that will last a lifetime