Norma Hornby, manager of the Canal Boat Adventure Project in Cheshire was awarded the MBE in June for services to children and young people.
I am delighted to welcome a guest post from Norma telling us more about the project.
The Canal Boat Adventure Project was set up in 1976 by Peter Jenkinson, who is still involved in the project today as president. Ken Dodd launched the first canal boat, the Jubilee Mond which was donated by ICI. CBAP is based in Runcorn, one of Halton’s two towns which make up this unitary authority. Halton has remained high in the poverty and deprivation tables for many years and the project’s initial aim was to provide canal boats for young people as educational and social resources.
Between 1977-1999, the project was able to demonstrate the very positive impact of canal boats on the lives of young people in terms of volunteering, exploring the canal network and in developing life-skills. Funding from Urban Aid, National Lottery and National Heritage Fund enabled the project trustees to expand the project’s fleet to four boats. When Lottery funding ran its course in 2000, a group of seven local young people, who were 14 yrs old at the time, were offered the opportunity to redevelop the project so that it became a direct deliverer of services to local young people. Teachers at a local school, which would soon be placed on special measures, referred these young people to the project chairperson because they were deemed to be failures. Many of these young people lived in second and third generation unemployed families and were gradually introduced to a range of new and innovative ideas, which have proved to be life changing for several thousand young people in this deprived borough. Four out of seven from the start up cohort are now, against all odds, graduates and they, in turn, have nurtured and inspired others to break out of educational, health and cultural deprivation to achieve their potential in work, university or through volunteering in developing countries.
Different cohorts of young people have added their own ideas and extended the range and reach of this project and, for many of these at risk and vulnerable young people, the Canal Boat Adventure Project provides a substitute family at a critical time and their lives. From young carers, care leavers, young offenders to young people who are not fully achieving their potential through formal education, these young people develop the confidence and courage to develop hopes and ambitions for their own futures.
Between 2009 and 2012, different groups of young people attracted 17 prestigious national and regional awards for social inclusion and for citizenship: these have included the BBC Young Citizens Award, Catch 22 best National Citizen Service, Bura Inspiring Communities award at the House of Lords, Philip Lawrence award, vIinspired best NCS project regional. The project’s canal boats have proved to be a springboard to improved life-chances and economic activity for young people.
CBAP is dependent on external grants and successful funding applications for its existence. The project’s chairperson, still Norma Hornby, has recently secured a £98k grant to provide 3 month work-based training programmes with Kids und Co, the project’s partner in East Berlin. The involvement of young people as volunteers, peer educators and mentors enables this project to operate at low cost and income from our canal boat hire is reinvested in young people’s lives.
This project is managed in partnership with young people, each member of staff is funded by a different charity and young people have clearly demonstrated that canal boats provide a flexible, warm and friendly environment for learning and for enjoyment. Despite the current austerity crisis, this project is still reasonably optimistic about its long term future, although funding is in short supply.
Norma Hornby, a former senior youth worker and youth service manager, confirms that this project has demonstrated that young people in deprived communities have a wealth of untapped potential – it just takes a few canal boats to inspire and motivate them.