Based in East Lothian, ‘Venturing Out’ are a not for profit social enterprise whose aim is to encourage young people and adults into the outdoors. Offering a broad range of activities to key target groups, they provide the facilities and expertise required to deliver the service. This enables people to experience outdoor activities which otherwise might not be available to them. I joined a group of young disabled people recently for a canoeing session at Musselburgh Lagoons.
Disabled young people and adults for that matter, are often overlooked when it comes to outdoor pursuits. Opportunities for disabled people to take part in Sport is gradually improving. This is in large part due to the success of the British Paralympic Team and London 2012. When it comes to Outdoors Sports however, there is still work to be done. I work to raise awareness and create opportunities for better access to the Outdoors for disabled people. This came about after realising how passionate I was about sport, but how difficult it has been in the past for me to find suitable opportunities. Realising the social and emotional benefits of taking part in outdoor pursuits, I wanted to help create the possibilities for other disabled people to do the same.
Canoeing in the Past
When I was a teenager I left school and went to special education in the Midlands. During this time I participated in a canoeing club. The college had an indoor swimming pool where we would practice in the winter months. We would go onto the river at Leamington Spa during the summer. With the help of some wonderful instructors, Geoff and Puffin, I leaned to paddle a kayak and a Canadian canoe. I even progressed to paddling K1 race canoes which were very good fun, but very unstable. All I had to do was to sneeze the wrong way and I would fall out. So when I got the change to join ‘Venturing Out’ to go canoeing, I was really delighted. I hadn’t paddled for 25 years so I didn’t know if I’d still have the balance!
Sailing the Lagoons
The Musselburgh Lagoons provides an idea and sheltered place for a group to learn to canoe. It was lovely to join a group of disabled young people and their parents on a Friday afternoon to have fun in the water. And what fun we had ! There was a selection of different boats provided for use. Kayaks, Canadian Canoes as well as open topped boats were available for people to try. If you were super brave there were even paddle boards for those who didn’t mind ending up in the water. I went straight for a kayak because I thought it would all come back to me. At first, I felt very unstable, no doubt due to the length of time it had been since I last paddled. I soon found my balance and I enjoyed being in a canoe again. I also had a shot of going solo in a canadian canoe. This is the type of canoeing I enjoy the most.
Float into the Future
It was lovely to watch many disabled young people and their families having so much fun.
Some were canoeing, some were on paddle boards while others just wanted to swim. Whatever they were doing, it was a joy to watch as they were having so much fun. This really highlights the importance of ‘Venturing Out’ and the service they are providing. Activities like this, as well as enjoying themselves, help young people build confidence, self esteem and support inclusion within their local communities. Therefore it is essential that young disabled people obtain access to this sort of activity.
I hope that by taking part and writing about Outdoor Sports, I can help in some way no matter how small. By highlighting the benefits to disabled people it might help develop opportunities. ‘Venturing Out ‘ show the need for a service and it is hoped that more disabled people will be able to take part. The Health and Well-Being benefits to my life have been extraordinary and I hope other people, both disabled and able-bodied have the opportunities to experience the joys and benefits of Outdoor Life and Sports