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The West Kent Recovery Team pulling together in boat three

dragon boat

‘There is nothing, absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’ exclaimed Ratty in The Wind in the Willows.

And so it was when a motley crew was pressed into action and took to the high seas (Mote Park lake in Kent), in a quest for riches; while a land raiding party prised gold and silver coins from the dry, land lubbers watching the battles on deep blue (murky green really) take place.

But this was not just any scurvy bunch.

It was led by the infamous Captain Mad Sea Swashbuckler (aka the RSA’s Susie Pascoe according to a random pirate name generator), this rag-tail rabble was banded together from the three hubs (Maidstone, Gravesend and Tonbridge) of the West Kent Recovery Service. This was the first time the trio had connected for a community event.

The crew of 26 was made up of people in recovery from alcohol and drug misuse, staff and peer mentors from CRI (one of the RSA’s partners in the initiative), and of course other members of the RSA’s Whole Person Recovery team, namely able-seaman Jack Robson and the not-so-able yours truly. But to quote Martin Luther King, “We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now”.

To the rhythmic beat of drums and the theme tune from ‘Hawaii Five 0’ blaring out, the nautical novices pushed their dragon boat out in a frenzy of sploshing and splashing to raise money for Demelza House, a children’s hospice - their chosen charity.

This mob of matlows had the power to create; power to create waves not only in the water but also from the throng of spectators waving and cheering them on.

For many the event was a major first; a re-engaging with the community that they had lost connection with through their addiction. Being treated by the other groups, not as second-class, but as equals united in a common cause - a connected community, all pulling in the same direction.

“Only the guy who isn't rowing has time to rock the boat”. Jean-Paul Sartre

Many of those in recovery stepped out of their comfort zones and not only rose to the challenge of helping others but relished it.

Some overcame the fear of being in large gatherings; others conquered fear of  being on water and all in the name of giving back to the local community which once shunned them or from which they had isolated themselves.

As well as competing in the boat races the recovery community had a stall where they had all sorts of goodies to hand out, for a small donation to Demelza. They included bracelets made by members of Maidstone’s Go Create group, which proved very popular with the younger spectators. They were also all on hand to offer help and advice about drug and alcohol abuse to anyone who asked for it.

In total 36 other teams competed in the charity event and at the end of the day it was announced that between the teams a total of £75,000 had been pledged to the 37 selected charities.

It would be easy to write a dry blog about Whole Person Recovery; full of statistics and analytical data. But for this one it was all about the rich data that surveys could not record and involved getting wet. But the day wasn’t just about having fun and raising cash for a very worthy cause.

There was also another reason for taking part in the day. It was all about building ‘recovery capital’ - the keystone of the WPR Programme. It showed those seeking sustained abstinence from drugs and alcohol that there is life after their addiction, and that that life can be fun without their substance of choice. It helps them to become part of a connected community; creating ripples of ever-increasing circles that is much wider, and more far-reaching, than just the recovery groups they have been part of.

It shows these people that they have the Power to Create a better life; one in which they are author of their own destiny.  It may seem a small step for many reading this blog, if you have reached this far, but to many of those starting their recovery journey it is a giant leap, or in this case a giant paddle stroke. It shows others, not in addiction, that these people are valuable members of the community that are not just a drain on its resources. All those that took part in the day’s fun and frivolities said they wanted to enter again next year.

So, all that’s left to say, in Hawaii Five O-style, for those old enough to remember the show, is …

… Book ’em Pascoe!

Don’t forget you can still donate to the team’s efforts by visiting justgiving.com/recoveryboatrace.

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