The team of volunteers at Sheffield-based charity, The Ethel Trust, are celebrating this summer after receiving the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in recognition of the exceptional support they provide for disadvantaged people in South Yorkshire.
The award is the equivalent of an MBE and the highest award that can be given to voluntary groups.
The trust was established in 1988 and is run by a team of 30 volunteers who operate a fully accessible 60-foot long community barge on the Sheffield & Tinsley and Stainforth & Keadby canals. On average, the barge carries around 1,000 passengers a year; they support a range of groups including primary school children with special educational needs, young people with mental health issues, and elderly groups in residential care and at risk of social exclusion.
The Ethel Trust has also developed a unique flagship project called ‘Unlocking Confidence’ which is a three-day residential trip for young people with learning disabilities to develop self-confidence, team working and social skills.
And they do all of this without any local or national government funding – just the support from volunteers and donations from local people.
Along with recognition from the Queen, the Trust has also commissioned a brand-new barge which will enable the charity to expand services to a greater number of people. Although planned for some years, the second boat has been made possible through a very generous legacy from a grateful passenger who wanted to ensure many more could benefit from what she had experienced. The plan is to name the new boat after her – Pearl.
The Trust is working with top boat designers to ensure that Pearl is state of the art and as environmentally friendly as possible, featuring a hybrid engine, solar panels, and low energy usage. Hydraulic lifts front and rear will enable access to all areas for wheelchair users and those with mobility issues. There will be a fully equipped kitchen, fully accessible toilets/wet rooms and, for residential trips, sleeping accommodation for eight passengers plus three crew.
A planned innovative feature is a remote system to allow the barge to be steered from any location on the boat via a handheld console. This would enable the crew to support all passengers in steering the boat, regardless of mobility issues.
For more information about The Ethel Trust, visit www.etheltrust.co.uk