Do you remember when you were at primary school and during the lunch break there was a game of football or netball, or something similar? Did you have to line up whilst the team captains went in turns to pick someone for their team? The really sporty kids were always picked first, and the slower less coordinated kids ended up as the last few stragglers waiting their turn to be selected. No one really wanted the last child, but as they were there, they could join in.
Later in secondary school you only made the school team if you were good enough to be selected by the teachers. After all you were representing the school, so you had to make the grade to compete with the best from other schools. (The best I achieved was as a bowler in the 3rd cricket team.)
By the time you reach university, being selected for the Cambridge / Oxford boat race you must be an elite athlete with room for only 9 in the boat including the cox. (And no, I did not go to either university, or have even been in a rowing boat).
To reach international standard to be part of the England football team, or that of one of the other home nations, you need to be at the very highest levels of skill and athleticism.
To enter the Olympic games, you not only have to be an elite athlete, but you also must exceed the qualifying standard. Sir Mo Farrah, a four-time Olympic champion and world record holder failed to make the Olympic qualifying time for the 2020 Olympics held in Tokyo this year. As brilliant as he is, Sir Mo was out of the team.
So, who made the team at the Restore Dragon Boat race? We had a very simple entry criterion. There was no queuing up in a line to be selected. No team captain selecting on athleticism. No pre-tournament qualifying standard to meet. If you just said you would turn up and row with Restore, you were automatically selected for the team. Even on the day, we had several family and supporters cheering us on ask if they could have a go. Of course! Just grab a red t-shirt, find a helmet that (sort of) fits, do a safety briefing and you are in the team.
I admit our team selection methods may not necessarily yield the result of winning the competition. That said, even the winning team won with the 12th fastest time of the day. There was a separate prize for the fastest team of the day which is fair. There was also a prize for the slowest team, which we narrowly missed ‘winning’.
For many of our residents being part of the team was such an uplift. Being proud to be included, to be part of a whole team effort. The sense of belonging. I cannot underline how much those positive affirmative feelings mean. For many who have become homeless they end up being excluded. People walk past in the street. Friends and family turn their backs and isolate. Others may unfairly judge them; prejudice and discrimination follow. Some have faced open hostility towards them for no other reason than they do not have a home. I have known of occasions where tents have been slashed with knives or burnt down, or fluids thrown over someone sleeping in a sleeping bag.
In our team photo we are all one together. The same red t-shirts and helmets, albeit slightly different shapes and sizes. Restore is all about inclusion. To include those who have been excluded. We include everyone in our team. We include positive activities in the community. Since Covid lockdown has been lifted 11 Restore residents have done volunteering by giving back into local communities.
To achieve the results Restore does we welcome those who come to us. We pray as a team every day for our residents and their upward journey towards independent community accommodation. Like any journey there are always going to be some ups and downs, some easy paths and some that are hard to navigate. Each resident has their own route with an expert guide (our Housing Support Workers) to help them navigate towards their individual end goal.
Thanks for cheering us on. You may not have been at the Dragon Boat race on the day, but so many have supported us financially (we raised £1600 – see https://zcu.io/TqCV) and there have been hundreds of ‘likes’ on Facebook and Twitter.
If you also want to be part of the Restore team, you can join us. Please check out our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/RestoreYork/ to become a friend and get regular updates on what we do. If you would like to support our work, please click on the link https://www.restoreyork.co.uk/donate/ . If you cannot give, perhaps you could sign up to our newsletter https://www.restoreyork.co.uk/contact/. I would love for your to be part of our team and journey with our residents.
Restore York CEO