Stephen, a resident at Shinewater Court, had a wonderful day visiting his local Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) in Eastbourne during March. Stephen served with the RNLI between 1975 – 1980, as part of the crew on the ‘Duke of Kent’ and was delighted to visit the station to see how things have changed and meet the current crew. He was welcomed to the station by Carl Pocock, Lifeboat Operations Manager, and some of the crew he met included those who worked to save life and property from the Eastbourne Pier fire in 2015.

Stephen was shown the boat house and the current 42 tonne lifeboat ‘Diamond Jubilee’; the all-weather boat that works mainly with smaller boats in the area which have engine problems or get caught in the nets of fishing craft. The smaller inshore boat deals with power boat incidents and also those associated with Beachy Head. He was also introduced to ‘Dead Fred’, the training tool used to help the crews pick up people from the water.

Stephen said of the day: “I loved being able to see the new boat and I enjoyed being able to share some of my stories with the current crew. It was a lot harder in my day.” Sara York, Activities Co-ordinator, who has been liaising with the RNLI about the visits said: “It’s been so fantastic to see Stephen being able to revisit a vital part of his life.”

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This brilliant opportunity to visit the RNLI originated from Stephen’s photo being shared on The Disabilities Trust’s Twitter page as part of their #SeeMeNotDisability social media campaign, launched last year during UK Disability History Month (22nd November – 22nd December 2016). The photograph of Stephen holding up a sign saying “I was a lifeboat man”, was retweeted by the RNLI (to their 116,000 Twitter followers) and as a result of this the two charities made contact and arranged for Stephen to visit them, as well as for the crew to visit Shinewater Court in the near future.

Following March’s visit there is also now a plan for the Eastbourne RNLI crew, along with some of the men and women supported at Shinewater Court, to participate in a ‘fun run’ together in October to raise money for both charities.

The experience has been hugely positive for all those involved and the Disabilities Trust are delighted that the #SeeMeNotDisability campaign has had such a great impact, not only for Stephen, but for other service users across the Trust. Several photos shared by the Trust as part of the campaign gained retweets from celebrities including Monty Don (BBC Gardeners’ World presenter), Nadiya Hussain (Great British Bake Off 2015 winner), and Russell Grant (British astrologer and media personality), much to the delight of those who featured.

If you would like to support Shinewater Court and find out more about the fantastic work they do, you can join them on Friday 5th May for their annual Charity Ball, hosted at York House Hotel, 14-22 Royal Parade, Eastbourne, BN22 7AP. Tickets cost just £35 each, which includes a buffet meal, disco and welcome wine on the table. There will also be an auction, and the money raised will go towards buying a new minibus to make visits like Stephen’s easier to facilitate.

Contact Sara York for more information about the ball at sara.york@thedtgroup.org or call 01323 769 196.