| Author's Name: Fiona Mitchell|
Date: Mon 13 Jul 2020
When sailing, the role of the Skipper is fundamental to the success of the crew. They have complete oversight of the boat as a whole and full trust that every member of the crew knows their role and has the resources required to carry it out. When obstacles or rough waters hit, the Skipper must be able to respond quickly, calmly and accurately. Their leadership determines the reaction of the crew as the boat navigates a storm; panic and fear, or grit and forbearance.
At Making Waves Foundation our General Manager plays the same role. Since Christine Judd was appointed at Sailors with disABILITIES 14 months ago there have been some big changes through which she has steered the organisation. First, a name change to the Making Waves Foundation. Her background in marketing gave her understanding of what this would entail having worked through name changes with two corporations in her previous working life in hospitality. As Christine says “After 25 years, the name Sailors with disABILITIES became a little bit too defining. The organisation works not only with the disabled but also the disadvantaged. Making Waves Foundation represents more what we are trying to do, we are challenging societal views about what disabled and disadvantaged people can do, while providing an opportunity to make material difference in the lives of those we touch.”
The name change involved a re-design of the website, all the marketing material, everything Sailors with disABILITIES had ever used. In the corporate world Christine had had greater resources, here there are only two full-time people but as Christine says “We were able to reach out to our volunteers who are very talented, and to take that talent and use it to assist us. We re branded very methodically and were successful with it”. The new name, mission statement and strategy were launched at the Making Waves Regatta on March 6th in which 23 boats with over 40 volunteers took part. It was a highly successful day raising awareness of the programme and its vision and was a great fundraiser.
The next big storm, a week later the programmes came to an abrupt halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government put in place necessary social distancing laws. “When you are on a yacht, there is no way you can say, yes for sure you are going to stay one and a half metres from each other; the natural environment of wind is constantly changing and the boat is moving” Christine explains. However, she is ensuring that this “down” time is being put to good use. “It is really time to look at the organisation, work with improving our database for future resource. We can look at the skills needed for our volunteers, how we can provide training to upskill them when we come back, boat maintenance programmes, and taking the opportunities to apply for any grants we qualify for; so we are keeping quite busy really”.
Another exciting development is the work being done with the department of education developing a virtual reality educational class on sailing. “We are working with one of the teachers to put together videos, to keep the idea of sailing alive for the students, so that they can think about going out on the water and see what they can accomplish, what sailing can do and how it can make a difference to their lives”.
Christine’s own passion for sailing began when she worked in Hong Kong. Sailing in dinghy races gave her a chance to recoup from the long working week and to get involved with team work, the excitement and drama that racing involves. As Christine moved around the world for work the first thing she would do was join a yacht club for the community spirit and opportunity to make good friends. It was her knowledge of sailing and what it has done for her, together with her desire to give back to others who were less fortunate that attracted Christine to the position at SWD, as it was then.
“It is the therapy of water. When the students first get out on the water they are a little bit anxious but once they relax into the boat, and get used to the feeling of the motion, it is so nice to see the smiles on their faces and the joy that they have. Our volunteers are very good with the students, and it allows the students to see what they can do, what their potential is, and it is wonderful.”
Christine has been out on the Winds of Joy and Winds of Change programme. As she explains “The Board have been working on a Strategic Plan for about 10 months. It underpins the future of the organisation. The 3 main key points are
In addition, we have identified the importance of being able to dove-tail the programmes to provide continuation to those individuals stimulated by sailing as an activity. The Winds of Joy is a 2-hour programme in the mornings and afternoons for disabled students. Then there is the Winds of Change programme which takes out students who are a little bit older and shows them teamwork, communication, increases social engagement and develops various sailing practical skills. What we can do is identify students from Winds of Joy and promote them to the Winds of Change programme, and from Winds of Change we have the Wright of Passage programme, which is a vocational programme where the participants work for a year on a wooden boat, they learn skills for a trade and hopefully are able to get a job after that. It can be a progression through the whole organisation, which is what we are hoping to achieve, whilst the students are taking part in a sport they enjoy so well”.
As she stands at the helm, her drive to ensure that the re-invigorated Making Waves Foundation is ready to re-open and to continue making a difference to the lives of the programme participants will keep Christine occupied until the boats, the volunteers, the students, teachers and carers are able to get back onto the water. Christine can’t wait to see the smiling faces and hear those giggles once again.