Corporate landlubbers take to the water for vulnerable children

Front right, David Fogg, of Waramanga, sailing on Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra to support disadvantaged children and young people. Photo: Melissa Adams

A collection of land-loving builders, lawyers and accountants piled into sailing boats on Thursday to raise money for a community program supporting vulnerable children.

Communities at Work chief executive Lynne Harwood said she hoped the regatta would raise close to $2000 for the Buoyed Up sailing program, which has catered for more than 600 vulnerable children in the last two years.  

“The program is about getting young people who are disengaged from mainstream school to have a sailing experience which also combines educational outcomes,” she said.

“We don’t get any government funding to do this program so it’s about raising the funds to support children.”

After  pre-drinks on the lawns of the Canberra Yacht Club and some competitive banter, the corporate and construction workers assembled for a light-hearted race around the lake.

Ms Harwood said the Buoyed Up program worked with teachers to help build disadvantaged primary students’ self-esteem, motor skills, resilience, teamwork and environmental knowledge.

“The Canberra Yacht Club and sailors have brought their own boats and sold them to corporates for a team bonding experience,” she said.

“We have a wonderful partnership from the Canberra Yacht Club and get funding from Yachting Australia and a whole group of business people who are sailors in their own right.”

Ms Harwood said sailing was traditionally seen as an elite sport so the program targeted children from schools in Richardson, Isabella Plains, Bonython, Ngunnawal, and Palmerston.

“We have found that not only were the kids more engaged in the act of sailing but they were also more engaged in their schooling as a result of the program,” she said.

One corporate buying a spot in the boat was David Fogg, from ProStyle Building Group, who became involved in the program after being prompted by a former client.

“At the end of the day this is about being involved in the community and  that’s what we’ve been trying to convey to some of our building friends who have a similar outlook on giving back to the community,” he said.

Mr Fogg, who was formerly  president of the Housing Industry Association in the ACT, said being involved in community projects was an important responsibility for all supporters of the sailing program. 

“When you see the kids out there, which I have done a few times, it is fantastic as you really do see the excitement and enthusiasm in their eyes,” he said.  

Ms Harwood said a University of Canberra report found the program provided tangible benefits for  students and schools.

“Instrumental to this program is the willingness of the teachers to disrupt normal daily routine in order to provide a unique opportunity for children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds,” read the university’s report.

“While the program alone has not been responsible for improving academic performance, the children involved appear to be more engaged in school and often use their sailing experiences in the classroom environment as a reference point for some of the activities and task requirements.” 

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