In late July an opportunity arose to take a small group of residents down to the Franklin Wooden Boat Centre to work on a wooden boat restoration project.

The project was a significant rebuild and restoration of a wooden 24 foot lifeboat originally built in the 1950’s. The lucky residents including, Paul, Bradley and Glen accompanied me – Tom (student social worker) on a weekly basis. All involved were amazingly privileged to have the instruction of wooden boat shipwrights David Goulding and John Young who worked diligently and most often one on one with the residents to teach and assist them in the restoration process.

As the residents came on a weekly basis they undertook a variety of tasks. Some of these tasks included shaping wood with hand tools, nailing and riveting, putting in new ribs, stripping paint and much more.

As well as working on the boat itself the residents were given the opportunity to go rowing as a group out on the Franklin River. The residents worked as a team rowing a restored wooden boat around 4km up the river and settled in for a lovely lunch on the river pre-prepared by Sharee. This was a great experience with the residents really appreciating the experience of being out on the water.

As the weeks progressed the residents involved notably gained confidence in what they were doing and being in a strange and possibly confronting environment. This was supported by the fantastic shipwrights John and Steve who kindly and patiently worked with all involved. Coinciding with this the residents reported to me that they felt the confidence and positivity of being involved in the project had spread over into other aspects of their lives. This included feeling more hopeful whilst in Bethlehem House, where some residents report lack of stimulation as a major reason for participating in destructive habits.

Residents also reported that having an outlet of doing something in which they felt involved and which was teaching them skills gave a sense of hope and motivation. This was reported as significantly helping them cope with living at Bethlehem House on a daily basis.

Overall this was a positive and constructive experience at The Wooden Boat Centre for all involved. With hopes from all parties involved that the project/similar projects can continue into the future.

Thomas Kearney-Elkan