Charities team up to Guide first-time sailors

Many people with disabilities may think they would never be able to take part in physical activities such as sailing – however two national charities have teamed up to show people in the North East that a disability should be no barrier to finding your sea-legs. Ocean Youth Trust North and Guide Dogs for the Blind have worked together to provide eight individuals aged 19-34, and their Guide Dogs, with the chance to enjoy a sailing trip up the RiverTyne.
For some of the individuals involved it was their first time sailing – many had never considered they would be able to take part in such a physical activity. However they are eager to prove that losing your sight does not mean losing out on life’s exciting experiences.
Shauna McKenna, 37 from High West Jesmond, lost her sight due to a degenerative condition at the age of 30. This trip was her first sailing encounter.
She said: “It can be very scary to lose a sense you have been reliant on for your entire life. I was very independent and active before losing my sight and for a while I thought: ‘This is it; I’ll just have to sit in the house from now on’.
“I imagined that I wouldn’t be able to do any of the day-to-day things I’d been used to doing and I certainly didn’t think that I would ever get a chance to go sailing.
“However, Guide Dogs for the Blind gave me a lot of support and provided me with a golden retriever, Pam, who has been my companion for almost five years. She helped me to get my confidence back and I was so excited to have the opportunity to sail on a yacht for the first time thanks to OYT North.”
Steve Lennon, General Manager of OYT North, added: “I’m very happy to work with Guide Dogs for the Blind so we could provide this group with an experience they otherwise might not have. It is important to let people know that there is support out there for those affected by a disability and that having a disability doesn’t mean you should not try new pursuits and discover new interests.

“We have worked with other disability charities before and it is wonderful to see the effect that getting out on the water can have on people. Getting to grips with sailing can significantly boost an individual’s confidence and self-esteem.

“For people who have gone through the terrifying experience of believing they may never lead a normal life, it’s wonderful to give them the opportunity to discover they can still enjoy activities such as sailing.”
OYT North specialises in the personal development of young people through Adventure under Sail on their purpose built vessel James Cook. They work with young people between the ages of 12 to 25 and adults with disabilities helping them to escape the challenges they face at home to become part of a real team. Sail training can build up self esteem and help develop awareness of the needs of others.

Guide Dogs for the Blind wants a society in which blind and partially-sighted people enjoy the same freedom of movement as everyone else. The ability to get around is vital in order to live a full life. The organisation empowers blind and partially-sighted people to do that rely on the support of the public to fund their services.

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