A project in Edinburgh has been giving young carers the chance to experience the excitement of being out on the water.
Meggetland Community Sport Hub and Edinburgh Schools Kayak Club have been working with Edinburgh Young Carers (EYC), who provide respite support to young people aged 5-25, to deliver a block of paddleboarding sessions along the Union Canal.
The project was designed to give respite to the young people while introducing them to opportunities that will challenge and subsequently increase their confidence. Each of these young people have a significant caring responsibility at home; this could be looking after a parent(s) or guardian(s); impacted by their siblings’ who have long term illness or disability; or impacted by their parents’ substance misuse.
How the project began
Meggetland community sport hub (CSH) is part of a National Lottery-funded programme that brings clubs and key local partners together who want to develop and grow the sporting offering in their communities focusing on community-led approaches.
Cynthia Berry, chair for Meggetland CSH and president of Edinburgh Schools Kayak Club said:
“We want the hub and club to broadly reflect Edinburgh’s wider population and give young people who could benefit the most, an opportunity to try our sport.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to life the physical and mental health inequalities in young people and so we wanted to reach out to the young people who otherwise would not have access to paddleboarding, so they could enjoy the benefits connecting with nature can provide.”
The project was supported through the City of Edinburgh Council Sport and Physical Activity Award as well as funding through The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) Adapt and Thrive fund that helped with the purchasing of the paddleboards as well as transport to help get the young people to the club.
Cynthia added: “I was keen to work with EYC as through my work as a PE teacher I knew the amazing work they do.
“Through the Meggetland CSH I have been able to connect with Jayne and Jonathan who oversee the community sport hub programme in Edinburgh, who in turn helped me to establish a partnership with EYC. Our partnership with Edinburgh Young Carers has gone from strength to strength thanks to the conversations at the hub.”
The project has been hugely successful with 98 young carers aged 8-18 engaging in 10 sessions delivered over a 5 week period by trained coaches throughout the summer holidays last year.
The project will return in 2022 and it is hopeful that the sessions will be rolled out to a wider group of young carers.
What they said
Gary Shaw, Development Worker for Edinburgh Young Carers said: “At Edinburgh Young Carers we try to create positive memories and opportunities to broaden the young people’s horizons and give them the opportunity to make new friends. For a lot of our young people this was their first experience of paddleboarding, and so staff participated in the activities as well which helped to encourage young people into the water.
“Life at home for many of these young people is hectic and sessions like these allow them time away to be the young people they are and have fun.
"The laughter coming from the young people was testament to that and was such a positive experience for everyone!”
One parent/guardian commented: “I can’t believe how amazing this activity was for my child. I never thought he would have the confidence to try it and yet he came home grinning from ear to ear.
“He even made a new friend and he’s just so happy. Thank you for making his summer holidays – he will never forget it.”