Volunteers at Cowes Sailability Club have had over one hundred telephone conversations with people with disabilities during the COVID-19 lockdown, helping to relieve feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Cowes Sailability Club has revealed that it facilitated more than one hundred telephone conversations with people with disabilities during the COVID-19 lockdown. The calls were organised through Cowes Sailability Club’s Ahoy There scheme, a successful initiative that was established at the outset of the lockdown to support club members who may have been vulnerable and self-isolating or living alone. Representatives from the charity telephoned any members or volunteers who requested a call, to lift their spirits and help relieve feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Stuart Manton is one of the people who appreciated Cowes Sailability Club’s support during the lockdown. A club member since 2009, he lives alone in the west of the Isle of Wight and has a visual impairment. “You don’t realise the value of contact with other people until it is taken away,” he says. “I’m normally a cup half full person, but there were definitely times when I felt quite low, so I really valued the support I received from Cowes Sailability Club. Every week, Chris, one of the club’s volunteers, gave me a ring for a chat and it was nice to be able to talk about all sorts of things, not just sailing. I found the conversations very supportive, especially at the beginning of the lockdown when everything felt very uncertain.”

Wendy Todd, an enthusiastic young club member with cerebral palsy, has benefited from regular conversations with Judy, another volunteer at the club. “COVID stopped me from socialising as I would normally do,” Wendy says. “COVID stopped me from going dancing, seeing my friends, volunteering with Friends of St Mary’s Hospital and, most of all, sailing with Cowes Sailability Club, which was a highlight in my week. This made me feel very sad at times, no matter how hard I tried to keep myself busy with other hobbies at home. Then I had a very surprising phone call from Judy. She inspired me to keep my hobbies going and called me weekly, which meant the world to me, as I was able to talk about how much I missed sailing and she understood. We had really good and funny conversations. Thank you Judy and everyone who set up Ahoy There.”

The Ahoy There initiative was conceived and run by Cowes Sailability Club volunteer Kathryn White. “Because Cowes Sailability Club provides activities specifically for people who have disabilities or debilitating medical conditions, the club’s members were among the most vulnerable people on the Isle of Wight at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak,” says Kathryn. “Setting up the Ahoy There initiative felt like the right thing to do, and I am absolutely delighted that the scheme has enabled the club to provide companionship and support for so many people at a very challenging time.”

Trish Rooke, Fundraising Officer for Cowes Sailability Club, says: “I would like to say thank you to Kathryn for setting up the Ahoy There initiative and another thank you to the team of volunteers who stepped forward to have conversations with members. Everyone involved made a big difference to the lives of people with disabilities during lockdown.”