In the heart of Deptford on the banks of the River Thames is The Ahoy Centre, a fantastic water sports-based charity that helps change lives and build life skills through sailing and rowing. After the pandemic put a pause on their regular activities the team are looking forward to getting back out on the water with their beneficiaries and anyone who fancies a challenge to raise some money to help them continue to provide support.
We recently caught up with Jonny Grady, Senior Fundraiser at The Ahoy Centre to find out more about their work and how you can get involved.
Hi Jonny, can you tell us about The Ahoy Centre charity and how it started?
Ahoy is a unique and brilliant little charity started by a gentleman called Clive Ongley. Clive wasn’t keen on being in school, he was a frequent truant, but found his feet with sailing and credits his time spent sailing with getting his life on track. It’s a hobby that requires a lot of responsibility and there is so much to learn on a boat.
From his experience and passion he wanted to help other children who weren’t necessarily academic through main stream school, so he established The Ahoy Centre. It was opened by the Princes Royal in November 2003 with the aim to give opportunities to disadvantaged, at risk and disabled young people to engage in courses on the water.
What kind of services do you offer?
We offer inclusive activities which seek to engage and provide transferable skills and qualifications through the medium of rowing and sailing for ages 8+.
Our core programmes are:
Sailing For all, where we regularly work with local schools for the pupils to come and try sailing with us. We have worked with disadvantaged children who live nearby but may not have necessarily seen a boat, they are quite worried when they first come to us and give it a go. But, when they come back for a second time they are so excited to do it again, it’s really humbling to see. The programmes offers the chance for young people to achieve a level 1 sailing qualification, of which for some of our beneficiaries, this would be the first time they have experienced success.
We have our Sailability Group, we work with young people with learning and physical disabilities to help get them re engage with their community, gain confidence, and improve essential life skills to live a more independent life. All of our boats are adaptable so everyone with physical disabilities can take part and achieve a Royal Yachting Association qualifications.
There’s also the Shipmates group, this is for younger people, from aged 8 and up, they join us weekly to learn sailing and row from a young age, following a syllabus of activities which see them gain qualifications. One of our instructors began at Ahoy as a Shipmate, he’s then worked his way through to become an instructor at Ahoy – supporting young people!
We also offer apprenticeships, a 15 month long pathway to employment programme where young people, predominantly NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training) work toward gaining a Community Coach Level 2 qualification along with a host of Royal Yachting Association qualifications. All our activities are based on increasing their confidence and abilities on the water, so they have a qualification they can use elsewhere. They are valid for use across the world so some of our apprentices do venture off once they’ve achieved their qualifications. One of our previous students was the youngest skipper on the Thames for a popular tourist attraction.
Ultimately, The Ahoy Centre is all about inclusion and offering opportunities for people from all walks of life to live life to their true potential and it’s great to work with people of all abilities and ages.
How did you manage through the pandemic?
We’re a small team at Ahoy, with ten full time employees, and two part time members and we also work with freelancers who support the running of our programmes. We’re a nice, big family really!
Things did change a lot during the pandemic. The core team were still working to support our at most risk beneficiaries through the pandemic, delivering hot meals and continuing with the educational side of things which moved online, whilst others were furloughed to help support the financial position of the charity.
We didn’t shut down, we just had to be a little more innovative with what we did to still work with and support our beneficiaries through this time. We couldn’t do any on the water activities but kept in regular contact with everyone, through virtual sessions, for example we held regular zoom lunches with our Sailability crew and virtual nautical themed activities sessions.
We realised a lot of our beneficiaries didn’t have access to computers, internet or anywhere quiet to do their homework, so we adapted some of our teaching space to a homework room. When we can all sit in a room together again they can come and use it to do their homework whilst being supported by trained members of the team.
Since outdoor team sport was given the go ahead on the 12th April we’ve been busy trying to get activity back to normal levels. It’s starting to feel like the old Ahoy again now, just with strict Covid protocols in place.
How can people get involved and support The Ahoy Centre?
There are so many ways! We’re keen to get back out on the water with our fundraising events.
There are two main types of water fundraising events:
The Meridian Pull Challenge: This is an 8.5 mile row on the River Thames by a team of 6 rowers per boat. You start in Chelsea, row past the Houses of Parliament and through the centre of London, under Tower Bridge and finish at The Ahoy Centre.
The Barrier Challenge: This is another 8.5 mile row on the River Thames by a team of 6 rowers per boat. You start at Woolwich pier, pass through the Thames Barrier, past the 02 arena and finish at The Ahoy Centre.
Both challenges are great events for team building or a fun day out for friends, all we ask is that you raise a minimum target of £2,500 when taking up the challenge.
We use Thames Waterman Cutters, these were originally used as ferry boats to load goods when London was the biggest port in the world. The design hasn’t changed, they are long and stable. Specific dates are chosen to ensure rowers are going with the tide to make it a little easier and full training is provided beforehand.
If you’re after something a little less challenging then there’s a 3.5 hour guided kayak challenge. Starting at The Ahoy Centre you go to Westminster and back, it’s not a race but a good physical challenge. We ask you raise a minimum of £75 per person.
We’ve also been a bit more creative with our fundraising, as we’re all about inclusion we wanted to create some activities for people who might want to raise money but not want to row. People can join our hundred club with the aim of raising £100 for us whichever way you want! Read a hundred books, walk a hundred miles, the options are endless! Once you’ve completed your challenge you’ll receive a certificate and badge as our way of congratulation you on your achievement.
We have so many activities lined up for the rest of the year, visit our website to find out more and get yourself booked in for a fundraising challenge! Visit: https://ahoy.org.uk/fundraiseforus
The Ahoy Charity is a short distance from our Anthology Deptford Foundry community in the heart of the thriving suburb of Deptford. To find out more about the one, two and three-bedroom homes available contact the team on 020 7526 9229 or e mail firstname.lastname@example.org.