SIX students from the Inverell High School Clontarf Academy set sail on Sydney Harbour from in the last week of April.
Matt Edmonds, Jarrad Humphries, Steven McGrady, Dean Davis, Josh Williams and TJ Neilson participated in an advanced course with the Sailors with disAbilities Winds of Change program during April 28-30.
Backed by the Invrell East Rotary Club, the boys made their second trip with the program that teaches students from all walks of life and abilities how to sail a boat.
SWD board member and volunteer skipper/instructor Sharon Angel met the boys last year. She said she and the staff were impressed by the growth in the Inverell students. The staff sat the boys down in the morning, and said they wanted to try something new with the boys’ aid.
The idea was to pair Inverell with a group of Glebe students who were also making the trip, and weathering tough, often dysfunctional lives. Sharon said the Inverell crew was more than happy to help out.
“And the Clontarf boys just totally stepped up. They were absolutely amazing,” she said.
“The guys from the Glebe school were just so engaged, and looking forward to coming back. It’s a pity we couldn’t have the Clontarf boys with us every time.”
Clontarf operations manager Shane Edmonds accompanied the boys to Sydney, and felt proud of how the boys handled themselves and offered assistance.
“Our boys, when they got there, mentored them straightaway. It was good because they picked one person each, there was girls there as well, and they did some drills and games with them. And then they mentored them for half a day,” he said.
Dean Davis said he swapped common interests and stories with the students, and then helped them learn how to sail the boat. One activity was to harness up and climb the mast. Dean said that was a good for confidence-building.
“They had to trust the people they only just met, and it was good. Most of them did trust us. The first fellow that went up, he just liked it for the view, but then I ended up going up, and the best view, though,” Dean said, shaking his head with a grin.
“This time, it was good to meet other people and teach them stuff that we learnt here, and try to be a leader up there a bit more.”
Josh said when they went out through the heads, he did get a little frightened, but he would do it again.
“I was afraid the boat would tip over, and they said it was impossible the boat would tip over,” he said with a laugh.
“We went out with people who had disabilities and could not read or spell. We had to help them. Pretty fun and exciting. It’d be nice to do it again, because it’s fantastic.”
Besides manning the boat and all sailing responsibilities to beyond the heads, Dean shared his Aboriginal culture with the SWD staff by playing the didgeridoo he had packed for the journey.
Josh also played the didgeridoo, performed traditional dance, and told stories of the Dreamtime to the group.
“It was such a pleasure to see them again, because they physically have grown so much, but they’ve grown so much more on the inside,” Sharon said.
“They’re so mature and experienced and confident and that was really, really lovely to see.”