A Harefield canal charity wants to introduce more young offenders and looked-after children to the pleasures of boating.
After a successful four-day voyage for youngsters from those backgrounds, Hillingdon Narrowboat Association would like to sign up similar ‘shipmates’.
Its chairman, Loraine Grainger, said: “It has really helped and supported these young people and has given them a different avenue in life to look at – to take part in something where they gain new skills and work as a team.”
She hopes to get more children from Hillingdon Council’s pupil referral unit, which provides education for those who are excluded or otherwise unable to attend school.
The narrowboat association is based on the Grand Union Canal close to Summerhouse Lane. It owns and operates five narrowboats on the waterway.
Last October’s trip for a group of young offenders and children from care backgrounds was thanks to funding from Heathrow Communities Together (HCT).
Each year, HCT chooses organisations in the borough to benefit from the Heathrow Community Fund, a grant with a focus on education, young people, employment, skills development and protecting the environment.
The group travelled from Harefield to Bull’s Bridge in Hayes, then on to Camden and then Limehouse in east London. The narrowboat association plans a similar trip for the first week of August.
“Some of the children’s parents also have to attend courses, so we are looking at involving them too,” said Ms Grainger. “It’s all about working together in a team environment.”
After completing a course, the children and their new skills get a warm welcome when they return to the narrowboat association.
“There’s young people like a boy called Wilson, who will come back whenever we need a helping hand,” Ms Grainger added.
“He’s got his Community Boat Leadership Project certificate from the National Community Boat Association – that’s a junior boat-handling certificate – then when he’s ready we can take him on the next level and he’ll have the opportunity to steer and manage community boats.
“He’s now very confident and very good with other people.”
If you know a group of young people who would benefit from a narrowboat trip, call Ms Grainger on 01895 823 582 or visit www.hna.org.uk.