A husband and wife team from West Down in North Devon who volunteer hundreds of hours to help young people learn to surf and improve their mental health have been named Points of Light by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Helen and Joel Blackman are passionate surfers and lead the North Devon part of The Wave Project, a community surf programme helping young people improve their mental health. Their dedication and enthusiasm for the project has helped 40 8-19 year olds with emotional difficulties through the six week surfing course to develop confidence and life skills.
Helen and Joel are the latest recipient of a Point of Light award, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers, people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.
Helen says…“Over the past 2 years we’ve met some amazing young people and it’s been incredibly rewarding to see them blossom and gain confidence in and out of the water. Personally I find there’s no better remedy than the freedom, escape and adventure that the sea offers. It’s a really simple concept, we take them surfing, encourage them lots, we listen to them and have loads of fun! Some of the young people we work with don’t normally have access to the beach, so we’re really excited to be able to provide this service and support.”
The Wave Project’s Joe Taylor with Helen and Joel Blackman
Joel added: “We’re now working to make the project more established in North Devon. We’ve seen first hand how much of a positive impact these programmes have on young lives so we’d love to be able to reach more youth in the coming years. Our funding runs out soon, so we’re looking for sponsors and grants to help us continue.”
The Wave Project is an award-winning community surf project which was originally set up in Cornwall in Newquay in 2010. The Wave Project provides surfing sessions for young people who have gone through bereavement, extreme family breakdown or who are young carers themselves. Following its success in Cornwall, the project expanded to North Devon in 2013 and volunteers were needed for a Croyde-based offshoot. Having already volunteered with the Croyde Surf Life Saving Club, Helen and Joel jumped at the chance to spread the benefits of surfing to young people who have emotional problems in their local community and went on to lead the North Devon Wave Project team.
The Project currently runs two six week programmes at Croyde Bay, one in April and the other in September. Joel and Helen allocate each young person with a mentor from a pool of the 25 passionate volunteers from the local surfing community and, through their mentoring and intensive one to one support, are given a new lease of confidence and self-esteem. The surf lessons also help young people to feel calmer, more motivated, confident and resilient. Helen and Joel have also trained to become qualified beach lifeguards to make sure the young people are in a safe environment at all times.
Charlotte Drayton, the mother of Bradley Drayton, one of the young people who has benefited from the project said:
“As a family we are incredibly grateful to Helen and Joel and everyone at the Wave Project for the difference the project has made to Bradley. We thank you for giving him the opportunity to be part of such an inspiring, motivated and friendly team. His time spent on his 6 weeks course boosted his confidence, brought a smile to his face and gave him hope and belief and that is priceless.”
Helen and Joel are the 218th and 219th winners of the Points of Light award which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA and was first established by President George H. W. Bush. Over 5,000 US Points of Light have been awarded and both President George H. W. Bush and President Barack Obama have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK which honours shining examples of volunteering across the country.
Regardless of whether it’s a doctor restoring local monuments in her free time, a father teaching young people life skills, or a local musician giving a voice to lonely people, the Point of Light award honours shining examples of volunteering across the UK.