Sports and Recreation Volunteering: Taking Dis-abled People Sailing.

Here is a marvelous article from Australia, about how Neil Anderson started Sailabilty. Sailability is a non-profit organisation that started by providing sailing opportunities for people with dis-abilities. Here is Mark's story courtesy of GoVolunteer Australia.

"I have been asked to write about how I became involved with Sailability. In December 1994, I was participating in a personal development course. The course was based around each participant undertaking a project in the community that would have them stretch themselves.

Volunteers make a difference

I read an article about "Sailors with disabilities" and their planned participation in the Sydney to Hobart race. I decided that my project would be to arrange to take some people with disabilities sailing for a day. I had been a sailor when I was younger but had never really had that much contact with people with disabilities. I decided that organising a day out on the harbour would be challenging for me.

When I discussed my idea at the course a fellow participant suggested that I contact Dr. Phil Vardy, as he was a sailor with a disability who might be able to give me "some assistance". Little did I know what I was in for when I phoned this Dr. Vardy to discuss my idea. Anyway, in May 1995, after many meetings with Phil, we organised a "Come and Try" sailing day at Dobroyd Aquatic Club. We had three Access Dinghies brought up from Melbourne and Phil brought his Trailer Sailer also. To see Phil rig his own boat by himself was the start of many amazing sights for me that day.

I had contacted the Northcott Society and organised for them to bring along some of the young people, that they worked with, to try sailing. I also contacted the Ryde Rehabilitation Centre and they had people they would like to bring along, as well.

I had only seen a picture of an Access Dinghy before that day and was surprised by the size of them, when Chris arrived. I had a friend helping me on the day, who said "We're not going to put people with disabilities in those little boats are we?" I said " Apparently we are."

Others were also a little sceptical at first, but some had seen the boats before and were very excited about getting people out on the water. We weren't rushed by people wanting to get into the dinghies at first, but once we had the first three people out on the water, we had a queue of people wanting to try.

As I have said, I had not really had any contact with people with disabilities at that time and had no idea how to lift or even socialise with people with disabilities. Everyone was great and I soon realised that all I had to do was say "Hi" and things would progress naturally from there.

It was a long day of lifting people in and out of boats, raising centreboard after centreboard, but I will never forget the smiles on the faces of the sailors as they came back into shore. The excitement they expressed at being able to sail was just fantastic to see. The day was a great success and the first question asked by all was " when are we going to have the next one?"

Well it is now three years later and we have helped organise many "next times" over that time. I still get a tear in my eye when I think back to the first day and remember the smiles - heck; I still get a tear in my eye when I see the smiles each sailing day I attend now.

I have met so many great people and made so many great friends since becoming a part of Sailability, that I wonder what my life would be like, had I not read that article back in December 1994! My wife, Barbara, and both sets of parents are involved, along with other friends from time to time, at the Dobroyd branch, and they also say what a difference it makes in their lives.

If anyone is reading this and they're wondering whether they could get something out of being associated with Sailability, then all I can say is "give it a try" It may be life altering for you, as it has been for me.

Happy Sailing! Maybe I'll see you on the water one day."

Story provided by Neil Anderson, Sailability NSW.

Courtesy of

© One World One People, 24 January 2002
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