A vision to help people with mental health challenges and disability, while cleaning up the environment is driving Chris and Kristy Paterson to pour everything they have into an ambitious accessible boat project.
The pair, who run the mental health and disability support charity, Bamboo Projects, from the Sunshine Coast, are building a 9.5m wheelchair-accessible boat with Rebel Boats at Clontarf.
It’s a vessel Chris plans to use to take people of all abilities on cruises and fishing trips, but also to undertake clean-ups in waterways on the Sunshine Coast and in the City of Moreton Bay.
These are activities Bamboo Projects already does, using a 5m boat, but he’s keen to make clients more comfortable and expand.
Chris, who has a background in construction, registered the charity in 2015 after trying to manage depression and anxiety from 14 years of age.
He found being outdoors, fishing, exercise, sport and meditation helped him, and he sought to help others.
|“When I got myself better, I thought I don’t want anyone suffering and struggling with what I’ve been through,” Chris recalls.|
He reached out to people he knew might have been struggling, offering to go fishing and creating a sense of mateship and support.
“Their problems all had the same sort of pattern. It was either financial problems, relationship or job dissatisfaction,” he recalls.
“I wanted to start a charity and help people.”
Bamboo Projects engages people at risk of marginalisation in activities to clean up waterways in a bid to build connections with community and help the environment.
The charity is also a registered NDIS provider offering support including social and community participation.
Bid to build a boat
Clontarf’s Rebel Boats is building a 9.5m accessible boat for Bamboo Projects. So far, the project has cost $85,000 for the bare hull and $35,000 for the trailer.
Chris says they need to raise another $200,000 to cover the cost of motors, safety equipment, technology and more.
He has arranged to borrow the money to get the boat finished and on the water before Christmas, but is hoping businesses and the community will donate to the cause so he can recoup the cost.
“I’d rather the Government give us the funding. It’s going to clean up the waterways,” Chris says.
“The Australian Bureau of Statistics says we’re losing nearly a billion dollars in Australia for tourism now because the rubbish on our beaches is just that bad, people are not coming back. They’re not staying as long.”
He says he would love to take on a Moreton Bay City Council contract to complete clean-up work in the city.
“It’s two birds with one stone … we’re out there cleaning, we’re fixing the mental health and helping to give people a sense of connection and they’re getting paid. The money goes back to the community. The council gives it to us, we give it to them … It’s just a circle and they’re getting the rubbish cleaned up,” Chris explains.
He has already done clean-ups in Burpengary Creek, Hays Inlet and the Pine River and would love to do more. Chris is in the process of putting together a business case for the charity to receive government grants to remove rubbish.
“We could so much more but it comes down to … we’re at the stage where we need to hire people as crew leaders to support more people, but I need money to do that,” he says.
Using their 5m boat, they have previously been able to collect about 500kg of rubbish in a day.
People wanting to donate money to Bamboo Projects, for the disability access boat and its other programs, can do so via the website.
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