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Riley’s story

riley case study

My name is Riley, I first sailed with Tall Ships Youth Trust (TSYT) with my youth group in 2022, I had a rough childhood and faced adversity while growing up. In my late teens, I moved to the YMCA through the council after tough family relationships left me struggling with anxiety – my self-esteem was at an all-time low.

My first voyage with TSYT helped me to understand and process the person I actually wanted to be. It allowed me a space to open up to people and work as a team to release any stress through practical sailing activities. I gained so much confidence then too, and stopped judging myself so harshly. I allowed myself to relax and just enjoy the time I have with TSYT.

To be totally blunt, I probably wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for my first TSYT voyage. Sailing has allowed me to process my negative emotions and put them into something so physically and mentally rewarding.

My journey so far with TSYT has led to so many positive and empowering changes for me, and there was a eureka moment during my time onboard when things clicked, I was with the First Mate Sophie and my Watch Leader Els, painting nails, singing songs and enjoying our time together. For the first time in my life, I felt like I actually belonged somewhere, doing something I love, where I felt respected and cared for.

Following a second voyage with YMCA, I continued on TSYT’s three-voyage programme, returning for a Voyage of Empowerment in 2023, where I played a central role in supporting my group and focussing on goal setting for everyone. 

Supporting TSYT now as a volunteer and Young Ambassador, I share my own experiences with others in the hope that the challenges and opportunities I’ve faced over time will show them that there is a positive way forward.