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Surf therapy

218. Helen Blackman
219. Joel Blackman

A husband and wife team from West Down in North Devon who volunteer hundreds of hours to provide surfing sessions for young people who have gone through bereavement, extreme family breakdown or who are young carers.

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.

The Blackmans are the latest recipients 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.

The Wave Project is an award-winning community surf project which was originally set up in Cornwall in Newquay in 2010. Following its success there the project expanded to North Devon in 2013. 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 struggling emotionally in their local community and went on to lead the North Devon Wave Project team.

Joel and Helen run two six week programmes at Croyde Bay, one in April and the other in September. They allocate each young person with a mentor from a pool of the 25 passionate volunteers from the local surfing community for intensive one to one support.

The surf lessons 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.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Helen and Joel have shown great leadership and compassion in bringing together the Croyde surfing community to support 40 young people recovering from difficult emotional upheavals. I’m pleased to name them Points of Light.”

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 said:

“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.”

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.”

Sir Nick Harvey MP said:

“It is a pleasure to congratulate Helen and Joel Blackman on receiving the Points of Light award. They are incredibly deserving winners who have contributed so much of their time and energy toward giving vulnerable young people in North Devon a chance to grow, build confidence and experience something truly positive. Their dedication to improving the lives of local children through a focus on surfing skills, developing leadership and generally having a brilliant and rewarding time on the waves is to be admired. I am sure with Helen and Joel at the helm the future for The Wave Project will be very bright.”

Joe Taylor, CEO of The Wave Project said:

“Helen and Joel have been awesome volunteers for the Wave Project in North Devon. Their selfless efforts, humour and kindness – as well as great surfing – have helped to transform the lives of socially isolated children from the area.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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