Youth stories

Hear directly from some of our young volunteers, leaders and apprentices about how they've benefited from being involved with us and our projects.

Ghaith standing by the water Student Ghaith spent time on the waterways as part of one of our youth programmes

Meet Ghaith

Ghaith (pictured top) is one of a group of eight students who took part in a once a week day release programme with us over winter 2019-20.

During the programme, the group visited Canary Wharf, Little Venice and the Institute of Civil Engineering. Activities included canoeing as a team bonding exercise, boat trips on the River Lee, attending a workshop on bridge building skills, exploring the mechanical engineering involved in lock gates, and taking part in a virtual reality tour of civil engineering structures.

Ghaith found the experience useful and says he now has the confidence to study further and a clear idea of the career path he wants to take.

He also spoke about how much he enjoyed being by the water and how positive it is that young people are open about their need for some peace and calm in their lives.

“It’s good that our generation look after their mental health," said Ghaith. "You go to the canal to let nature talk to you. Your phone isn’t reality. It won’t let you feel the wind in your face.”

Meet Hazel

As a sports degree student, Hazel, 20, was introduced to canoeing through college. She had coached children in sports on land, but discovered that she really enjoyed being out on the water.

Selfie of Hazel - one of our young volunteers

In 2018 Hazel joined us as a volunteer and we arranged a course for her to become a Paddlesport Instructor. She helped to develop a #ThisGirlCan canoe club in Wigan, based along our coast-to-coast canoe trail.

In 2019 Hazel worked with a team of ‘Young Leaders’ to plan and deliver a coast-to-coast canoeing relay and festival in Blackburn. (Young leaders take on more responsibility for a project, working alongside Trust colleagues to help plan and deliver activities.) Since then she’s also worked as a canoe instructor for students from Wigan colleges.

“Over my time volunteering with the Canal & River Trust, I’ve become more confident with everything I do and say,” said Hazel. “I’ve found where I belong and become better at receiving feedback, more creative with coaching ideas and feel a lot calmer dealing with challenges.”

Meet Louis

Louis, 25, originally joined us as a young volunteer in 2013. Since then he has taken on various roles regionally and nationally, including delivering youth engagement training across our organisation to help colleagues build confidence in working with young people.

In 2019 he became Chair of our Youth Advisory Group and from there joined the Trust’s Council and London & South East Regional Advisory Board.

Louis speaking at an event Louis regularly speaks to our colleagues and volunteers about engaging young people

“My ever-growing relationship with the Canal & River Trust is genuinely one to cherish,” said Louis. “When I reflect on the fact that in the first 20 years of my life I don’t think I had ever been to a canal, who would have thought that today I would be actively seeking and creating ways to guide youth and communities towards a life around the waterways. This journey has been tremendous.

“Personally, I am driven to help people appreciate how significant of a community asset canals and rivers are. They are an amazing resource that we can make use of in our daily lives. Professionally, I have learned massive amounts about how a large charity that has such large amounts of responsibility goes about fulfilling its expectations and improves year on year.

“All of this has contributed to my own personal and professional development as I progress the businesses I run and charities I volunteer with.”

Last date edited: 20 January 2021