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Answering the Lockdown SOS

1st December 2020

Jade West, Volunteer Coordinator, Skylark IX Recovery Trust,

Jade West

During the battle of Dunkirk, the Skylark IX boat saved the lives of 600 men by ferrying them to safety. Seventy-three years later it was fished from the River Leven, Dunbartonshire, Scotland, battered and bruised, following an SOS call from the Dumbarton Veteran community.

The Skylark IX Recovery Trust answered that call and set to raise the funds needed to have the boat restored, in tandem with its parent organisation ‘Alternatives’, a local drugs recovery service. When the project successfully received a National Lottery grant in 2018, a key aim for the conservation project was to build skills and job opportunities for the wider community, in particular for Alternatives’ own clients on their recovery from substance abuse. Through skiff building, wood working and general boatbuilding programmes in the Scottish Maritime Museum, the trust intended to not only restore the Scottish town’s boat crafting heritage, but save lives all over again.

Many of the restoration plans had to be put on hold when the pandemic first hit. Jade West, a Volunteer Coordinator and third year Glasgow University student who joined the charity the day that lockdown started in March, began looking at ways in which the spirit of Skylark IX could be kept alive during the pandemic, making sure the ‘Alternatives’ recovery clients were supported.

As a result of her dedication, Jade is one of a handful of workers around the UK formally recognised by The National Lottery for her outstanding work during the pandemic, with her image set to be beamed onto one of the UK’s most well-known heritage sites, Stonehenge.

"These folks were stuck through lockdown amidst their recovery and that was inevitably going to have a big impact on them,” notes Jade. “Lockdown has been difficult mentally, but I've had a real buzz and a sense of pride that, throughout all the adversity, we were able to keep things going and have a positive impact on people's health.”

In addition to running weekly Zoom calls and check-ins, Jade and the Trust engaged the wider community by creating a lockdown patchwork quilt together with a textile expert, incorporating maritime design motifs. Sending out material to 37 participants – ranging from care home residents to those recovering from addiction – the group project saw personal stories woven into the fabric, with Jade describing the end result as a “tangible piece of history to hold”.

She added: "Projects such as this are a real lifeline for people and offer so much structure, pride and support that they need in their lives. Trying to stay optimistic when you're being knocked by the restrictions, when you're having to chop and change, is perhaps one of the harder things we've dealt with. But even through the adversity of the knockbacks, we've been able to push through.

“The quilt has been making its way around the town. Seeing everyone’s faces, it makes you remember why you're doing all this.”

The Trust is just one of the many inspiring organisations to have benefited from the £30m of funding raised by National Lottery players every week.

Jade continues: "People playing The National Lottery is so important, it's funding local jobs and projects and I would encourage people to keep on helping us.

"I've pushed through my own adversity and I'm so grateful for the support. All my mentors are women who have come through and made their way into managerial positions, coming up from nothing and pushing boundaries. On a personal level, I'm so proud to be representing women in heritage.”