24.10.13 Student update
Seven minutes on student’s thoughts so far.
This is an inclusive project that builds skills, builds lives and builds boats! It’s a team-focused venture that brings together people living with mental health challenges, with a shared purpose: to build five rowboats and journey down a stretch of the Murray River, from Albury to Yarrawonga/Mulwala.
As well as enabling lasting change for those involved in the project the aim of this activity is to raise awareness about mental health issues, and to reduce stigma by highlighting the strengths and capabilities of those living with mental health challenges.
This two year project commenced in February 2012 and will run until the end of 2013 – culminating in a 10 day (225km) Murray River journey from Albury to Yarrawonga/Mulwala. Some team members will row the boats whilst other members will act as an ‘on-ground’ support team.
A St Luke’s worker, Mark Johnstone, rowed solo down the length of the Murray River some years ago. He shared his story with participants of a D2DL bushwalking group who then posed the question “How do we do something like that?” Over the next couple of years a plan was developed in collaboration with the Wodonga TAFE Foundation Studies Unit to facilitate skill development/educational requisites.
Participants continue to achieve personal goals and their journey is documented through video journaling and Individual Plans developed in the class. The measure of success is demonstrated in the outcomes already evident, including;
• Five row boats have been built by River 2 Recovery team members over the past 12 months. The boats have been constructed and modelled from plans – they are near completion with seats currently being fitted.
• In the second year of running the group continues to grow with numbers now surpassing initial enrolment projections by 30%.
• In preparation for the journey, three R2R participants have achieved a combined weight loss of 80kg. They attribute this success to their engagement in the group.
• R2R participants expressed a desire to obtain First Aid skills. A training provider was sought and all team members have successfully gained their First Aid Certificate.
• R2R participants are well engaged at all levels of project planning, including being active in Steering Group Committee Meetings, conducting weekly Team Meetings and also the development and management of fundraising activities. All funds are held in trust by St Luke’s and managed by the R2R group.
Attainment of competencies undertaken at Wodonga TAFE include Certificate 1 – Timber Studies (Boatbuilding); Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Studies; Environmental & Ecological Studies; Media, Technology & Communication Studies; Photography & Cinematography; Personal Development – including, Interviewing Techniques & Public Speaking; Water/River Safety & Rowing Skills; and Job Club.
One of the significant challenges facing any organisation that wants to facilitate a project of this nature is how to deal with group self-determination and dignity of risk. A clear understanding of organisational limitations around the topics of risk management, partnership responsibilities & policies are essential. The development of common boundaries at the onset is important for the group to flourish.
Other challenges that presented at the onset of the R2R project were transportation issues, literacy levels, anxiety related to long-term social isolation & re-engagement of education and development of group dynamics and cohesion. To support participants to overcome these barriers, St Luke’s allocated two Mental Health Recovery Workers to provide transportation to and from TAFE and in-class support.
The budget for this activity includes significant fundraising by the student team members. A Trivia Night was held during Mental Health Month in 2012 – River 2 Recovery team members organised the event, developed the questions, campaigned for gift donations for prizes and hosted the event. 130 guests attended. The evening was a huge success and feedback from the event was extremely positive.
The Albury/Wodonga community has contributed in various ways. For instance the material and labour for the forward facing oar device were heavily subsidised. A trailer to transport these boats will be built/accessed primarily using community resources.
For further information about the R2R project and team members please contact;
Bryan Winnett – Foundation Studies – Wodonga TAFE 02 60556531
Members of the Albury/Wodonga community in conjunction with St Luke’s Albury and as students of Wodonga TAFE, are building five wooden boats to travel down the Murray River to challenge and to change people’s perceptions of and raise awareness about…,
- Mental illness
- Difficulties with maintaining Mental Health
- People with disabilities
- Emotional issues
People who have mental illness, can get out there (the World) and participate in the community (give things a go).
Why are we doing this?
- We want to help others to be aware that there is light at the end of the tunnel by demonstrating our capabilities
- Most people receive support in one form or another to achieve goals and carry out their daily life, people with mental health difficulties are just the same.
.2015. The original concept of R2R evolved from two years of student collaboration. To date the consumer driven project has not reached it’s full potential. Despite funding received to further the concept. So far the boats have become mobile thanks to the current REAL Options TAFE students building a frame for a trailer purchased by St Lukes. The original mentoring plans of consumers supporting and mentoring consumers has not progressed. Funding would obviously assist, ie;- the promised NSW govt funding and an independent perhaps an incorporated consumer body to manage the boats,. Phase 2 of R2R unfortunately has not occurred as yet. The wonderful idea developed by TAFE students R2R, remains unfulfilled but still has massive potential should consumers of mental health services and those on the path of recovery regain ownership of the concept they developed at TAFE.