Lisburn Sea Cadets
Lisburn Sea Cadets
Lisburn Sea Cadets (TS Ulster) received a Local Grants award of £20,000 to help fund the purchase of a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) to be able to offer their cadets a unique power boating experience and associated qualifications. The group already had a small power boat, but this was unsuitable for use as a safety boat for sail training.
Before applying to the Trust, the organisation were already fundraising to raise the necessary money required to purchase the RIB. The group had already raised £7,500.00 from a range of grant-making organisations when they became aware of the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust’s Local Grants award via the Veterans Support Office (VSO) in Northern Ireland. The head of the VSO, Liz Brown, gave assistance and advice to the Sea Cadets with writing the application bid, and they were successful in June 2018 in securing the necessary funding to purchase the boat.
The organisation also has connections “behind the wire” at Thiepval Barracks via the Army Welfare Service (AWS), and the two organisations worked together both to support the young people and encourage more service children to join the Sea Cadets.
One such young person was a student who had recently returned from the US with her family, and due to the difference in school years had limited contact with people her own age. She was very keen to join and take part in boating activities, so a swim test was organised at the swimming pool at Thiepval Barracks – a prerequisite for all cadets to pass before they are allowed out on the water. During the swim test, other students in the service community using the pool observed the test – and asked a volunteer for more information about the group. Through this indirect contact, three other cadets from within the service/ MoD community were enrolled.
The unit has also been able to reach out across all communities in Lisburn via social media, in particular its Facebook page to attract the interest of students who wouldn’t otherwise have heard of the organisation. Use of the RIB has also benefitted other Sea Cadet units across Northern Ireland by being available to assist with their open water training, and they had plans to use the vessel for families’ days and other commemorative events across the country.
Prior to lockdown this year, there were some 40 cadets enrolled with TS Ulster who were able to benefit from using the RIB and undertake powerboat training and qualifications. A comprehensive agenda of activities was planned for this year, but unfortunately due to the Covid pandemic and social restrictions, all boating activities have had to be put on hold.
Since restrictions have been in place, the unit has tried to keep up momentum to keep cadets engaged via virtual meetings on Zoom, with activities such as a virtual camp (where kit was delivered in a Covid-safe manner) where the cadets enjoyed first aid, seamanship and even drill lessons. They also had the opportunity to highlight their knowledge of knots by creating a ‘knot board’, some of which were then highlighted on the Unit’s Facebook page.
John, one of the organisers of the project said that: “the cadets have stayed with the group, but despite activities continuing virtually, some young people just don’t like Zoom and just want to get back out on the RIB.” He is very keen to get cadets back out on the water as soon as restrictions allow, as “everyone gets their cobwebs blown out and they will remember what it’s like to be back out at sea. We will see the big grins on their faces, as who doesn’t like travelling at 17 knots on Belfast Lough?”