Recovering Together

As mentioned in Lightwaves 2022, here are some responses from just a few people who visited FACT in 2021.

Liz, Leader, Falcon Afloat

FACT has always been a special place for Falcon Afloat. It’s a unique place to stay. We missed it immensely in 2020 and were really keen to make something happen in 2021. We enjoy the outdoor aspect of the space and the chance to gather in well ventilated areas was a must for 2021.

Arriving on site has always been a smooth process and the welcome is always warm and hospitable. We love being fed regularly, having the flexibility of the programme and truly gelling as a group throughout the week.

We have already heard rumours that the teenagers who visited for the first time this year are planning a return trip. Parents have said that their children feel included and accepted for who they are. They experience the challenge of the activities and the love of family as they go through the week. They leave with the confidence to be who God is calling them to be.

In such a turbulent year, it was wonderful for the team and the young people to have something familiar in 2021. FACT works hard to make sure everyone has a fair attempt at each activity, that there is healthy competition going on, a chance to grow lasting friendships and develop existing relationships. Consistency and love are key traits in the leadership of FACT, everyone knows that young people need to be shown a lot of both in the years following the pandemic. We can’t wait to be back for 2022, for a camp full of those things!

Robin, Headteacher, Broadfields

When asked to reflect recently on the value of time spent on board Trinity for a group of school children, my mind turns firstly to their lived experience through the lockdowns of the pandemic. The impact of the respite from the drudgery of 18 troubled months that was afforded to nearly 100 children by being on board the lightship can not be underestimated. It was a huge release for them. It was exciting. It was fun. It was social. They loved it.

Then I realise that there’s more to it. I know that Fellowship Afloat provides a unique educational experience at all times. I recently heard Prof Martin Seligman, known internationally for his work on wellbeing, define education simply as the combination of three things: learning social navigation, learning the ability to tell a good story and the development of good character.

All these key aspects of development are supported whilst on board. Children have the opportunity to build relationships with the crew, and deepen relationships with their peers. On return from the ship, children are bursting to tell with all the things that they have done during the week. And, of course, the implicitness of the Fellowship Afloat ethos supports the establishment of values that we all need as foundations for our lives.

Thank you to you all for providing such a richness of experience.

Hannah, Deputy Headteacher, The Grove 

The Ultimate Adventure – May 2021

Excited chatter filled the air as the children climbed onto the bus.  Laughing and joking they found their seats, all eager anticipation for the adventure ahead.  With parents waving, the bus pulled away – we were off.  It really was happening.

In September 2020, when I booked the residential at FACT, I couldn’t be sure that it would go ahead but I knew that we needed to do something ‘normal.’  The previous Year 6 children had left without participating in any of the expected rites of passage which mark the end of their time in primary school and I did not want it to be the same this academic year.  Of course, it seemed touch and go at times, but thankfully on 12th May 2021, our prayers were answered as restrictions were lifted, just two weeks before our departure.

I have known FACT for many years; once upon a time, I was year staff so I knew that it was the perfect place to visit in these challenging times, as the balance of excitement and fun alongside care and attention was just what our children needed. During the previous 18 months, they had demonstrated considerable resilience in dealing with all the changes: adapting to remote learning; engaging with friends in different ways; supporting their families but it hadn’t been easy.  Yet, here was the opportunity to relax and spend time with their friends – even just playing games in the upper saloon was going to be a treat.

“It’s a real boat!” they gasped on their arrival.  As many hadn’t left Cambridge since March 2020, the salt marsh was a completely different world.  In fact, it was all new and slightly daunting, however, they threw themselves into everything, even jobs groups and cabin inspections, with considerable enthusiasm.  There were some nerves, particularly about sailing and the high ropes, but everyone was willing to give it a go.  The centre staff were great at encouraging them to set personal goals to achieve and their sense of pride when they met or exceeded these goals was huge.  All week we were continually being surprised by how different children were stepping up to take risks, often in ways not seen in school.

As a school in an area of high deprivation, some of our children face upheaval and disruption on a daily basis, yet this has been exacerbated by the pandemic.  However, through the support of the bursary fund these children were able to come away, escaping the trials and tribulations of life at home to experience the simple joys of being a child.  Furthermore, the warmth and support provided by the centre staff was instrumental in helping them to feel at home.  The school staff who accompanied us on the trip were also overwhelmed by ethos and atmosphere of love and compassion which was evident from the moment we arrived.

I am so grateful that we made it to FACT this year.  After all that has happened, it was a breath of fresh air.  And although there were adaptions to the normal routines and changes to the programme due to Covid-19, the children didn’t know any different.  They were having the time of their lives!

So, what about next year?  Well, one week after our return, a child in Year 5 approached me to ask when it would be their turn to stay on board the boat.  I guess that means we’ll be back!

Jen, Parent, Summer Adventure Week

We chose a holiday at FACT for our son because we know how warmly and thoughtfully they care for every visitor. They were well prepared for the extra challenges of COVID – their guidelines helped everyone feel safe and didn’t seem to be impacting anyone’s enjoyment! The small group size gave us confidence that he would meet and make new friends, and the young, fun team of leaders were brilliant and helped everyone to get the best out of their time together.

He had a really great week and came back having tried things that surprised us. After many months of being partially or completely stuck at home through the pandemic, the unique, beautiful coastal setting of the lightship was a wonderful way for him to rediscover the joy of being outdoors and to have the chance to be more independent. He came home with renewed self confidence and this was so helpful for him and for us as a family in approaching the new school year positively. He has stayed in touch with friends he made that week.

FACT are doing a great job at giving young people the time, space and support they need to reconnect with one another in an amazing natural setting. And all this is done in the powerful context of living faith in Jesus Christ – knowing and sharing that we are loved, accepted and forgiven and trusting that He gives us eternal hope and purpose.

Mike, Volunteer

Volunteering with FACT is like taking time out for me. I’m an avid list maker and never without something to do, but when I step out of the car in Tollesbury I step away from the day to day. I love the path across the saltmarsh to the lightship, seeing how the light and sounds and colours change with the seasons. Stepping aboard, the joy, energy and enthusiasm is infectious, but in a good way! It is so good to be back out on the water, first in keel boats and then in the Wayfarers. There is something very special about helping youngsters transition from fear of a wobbly boat to being thrilled as they find they can sail it and want to go faster! Post pandemic, the lightship is a beacon of hope – we each take something different but it gives to us all.

David, Volunteer

After 14 months since I had last sailed with Fellowship Afloat it was wonderful to get a call last May to say that groups of young people would again be coming to the lightship Trinity to go out on the water and to take part in all the varied activities which Fellowship Afloat offers. Even though the team all wore face coverings and observed a range of other precautions – so different from 2019 – the enthusiasm which was there in the young people (and their teachers!) made me realise how important is the opportunity which Fellowship Afloat provides while we have all had to cope with restrictions and uncertainties in our everyday lives. The enthusiasm was no less evident when, later in the season, groups of adults came to enjoy the Fellowship Afloat experience.

For me, the opportunity of introducing young people and adults to sailing, to the estuary environment (and the one who made it) and of seeing them achieve something which they may not have thought possible have always been important reasons why I am a volunteer with Fellowship Afloat. This year, however, there has been the bonus of being part of the process in which many people have been discovering, or re-discovering, what is important in life.

Rob, Volunteer

As a volunteer, I travel for approx. an hour on my motor bike. This journey is one with a purpose and makes it not only enjoyable but worthwhile. At the end of the ride, I arrive at the lightship to be greeted by the core team, who are young but very able to conduct a group of schoolchildren (and keep us oldies in order!!!) as they are taken on to the water under sail. Almost without fail the children who might never have been in a sailing boat, learn the basics of handling a dinghy. This gives them great satisfaction and makes it all worthwhile for me as a volunteer. The schools keep coming back year after year (apart from the covid period) which proves the vision of Fellowship Afloat is on the right track. Rob (A volunteer who also keeps coming back)