Sailing Barge May: The Bread & Roses Barge bringing vulnerable women together

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Thanks to a donation from our Community Cares Fund, Jane, Connie and Helen are helping vulnerable women living in Tendring to find the support they need.

When three friends decided to restore a 130 year-old Thames Sailing Barge, they knew they wanted to do something special for their local community. And, with a grant from our Community Cares Fund, they’re doing just that!

Connie, Jane and Helen are on a mission. They’re not only restoring a former Thames Sailing Barge to her former glory; they’re also empowering women on the Essex coast to overcome some major challenges in their lives, including domestic abuse, loneliness and isolation. 

Their base is a 19th century Thames barge, Sailing Barge May. Built in 1891 in Harwich, the barge was once owned and used as a promotional vessel by Tate and Lyle and was even shipped to Canada for the Montreal Olympics in 1976. Thanks to the efforts of Connie and her late husband Gerald, Sailing Barge May has withstood the test of time and is now the oldest surviving Thames Sailing Barge built in Essex. 

And that strength and determination is shared by the team now managing the barge. Having inherited sole ownership, Connie has worked together with close friends Jane and Helen to bring new life to May, forming a Community Incorporated Company (CIC) to use the space for vulnerable women to come together and make new connections.  

Jane says: 

“We are delighted to have been awarded this funding to enable us to invite groups and organisations that support vulnerable women to come aboard Sailing Barge May. Having connected with these groups previously like MIND, Next Chapter and Homestart Harwich, we will now be able to offer sessions for those supported women to attend.” 

At the centre of the barge is a beautiful wooden table, a safe, welcoming space where women can share their experiences, find new connections and overcome their personal trauma. And that’s where our Community Cares Fund comes in!  

With our funding, vulnerable women living in Tendring will have the opportunity to attend a series of wellbeing sessions to include Mindfulness, art and craft therapy sessions and Menopause support  aboard the barge. Jane and the team hope that women who are struggling with their mental health and relationships will be able to visit the barge and find new connections with others who understand the impact of traumatic experiences:  

"The impact this funding has had so far has given us the opportunity to collaborate with those groups and organisations and be guided by them as to what their clients need in the form of health and well-being sessions which we can offer. Being able to provide a warm, safe and nurturing space to welcome vulnerable women within the local community aboard is paramount for this project.” 

If you’d like to find out more about Sailing Barge May and the amazing work that the team at Bread and Roses are doing, visit their website here.

Our Community Cares Fund is generously supported by donations from our members and customers, and you can help! Discover how you can help more amazing things happen here.