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Going the extra 3,540 miles!

Richard Kemp is the Chairman of the QS ImpACT Board of Trustees and the Deputy Lord Mayor of Liverpool. Our Board of Trustees are dedicated to applying their diverse professional backgrounds and experiences to govern the charity’s administration and activities for the benefit of our community members.

This is the second article that I have done for QS ImpACT that features someone a little older than our target audience. Bernie Hollywood has been associated with us ever since the World Merit charity, which we have evolved from, was established in 2014.  He has attended many of our events and has given advice and support to many of our groups and some of the social enterprises that they have established.

Bernie, a charity guru and social entrepreneur from Liverpool, entered the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge with the aim of shining a spotlight on the continued rise of child suicide and depression across the UK and around the world. Noted as the world’s toughest endeavour, this solo journey saw Bernie row 3,540 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, culminating with his arrival in Antigua.

The journey involved two capsizes, a broken leg, running out of food, and Bernie jokes himself, an extra 540 miles and 15 days because he didn’t turn right at the appropriate time and nearly ended up in Venezuela rather than Antigua! In a talk at the Anglican Cathedral, Bernie told us movingly of the loneliness of the trip and the ups and downs not only associated with 20-foot waves but also the emotional ups and downs that can affect you when you are basically alone for all that time in dark and dangerous conditions.

A cause close to his heart, Bernie has extensive personal experience with the mental health struggles of younger people and wanted to see if engaging with children and students through the medium of the creative arts and active adventure was possible. The purpose of the ‘Boat of Hope’ was to open a conversation about feelings around mental health. 

During the journey, which lasted over 100 days, Bernie’s trip was fraught with danger, technical issues, illness, injury, and loneliness. Despite this, he remained resolute in his determination, wanting to understand how alone people can feel when they experience depression and low mood.

The boat rowed by Bernie Hollywood across the Atlantic, the ‘City of Liverpool’, was named in honour of his late father and grandfather, who spent their entire working lives at the Port of Liverpool.

Bernie is absolutely right to bring to our attention the problems with children’s mental health which have greatly worsened during the lockdowns caused by Covid-19. His raising money, more than £120,000 is only part of the achievement. The biggest part was to raise awareness of the issue and bring about real change from policy makers and strategic deliveries globally. Child suicide is on the increase and there are many pressures on children which are difficult to counter unless we all become more aware of the issues, how to spot them, and how to deal with them.

Bernie remarked, “I am truly thrilled that the final stage of our hugely successful two-year Boat of Hope campaign is concluding with this exhibition in the majestic Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.

Our mission over the last two years was to successfully open as many conversations as possible with primary children on their mental wellbeing and with young adults on suicide awareness across the world, through creative arts & adventure. After my solo row and the work that has been done with schools in the UK, we are now here in my home city, with the unique opportunity for people to come and see the ‘City of Liverpool’ ocean-going rowboat on display alongside artwork produced by young people as part of the project.”

With the support of ‘Boat of Hope’ ambassador Natalie Reeves Billing, alongside her social enterprise Split Perspectivz CIC, the project has featured a host of activities and resources for children and young people. A children’s picture book, called ‘Bernie and Boatie’, was developed to engage primary school-aged children and is available to purchase from the Liverpool Cathedral shop.

Visitors to Liverpool Cathedral can take a closer look at the ‘City of Liverpool’ from 27th May to 4th June. If you live nearby its easy to get to. If you live further away there are easier ways to get to Liverpool than rowing!

I am meeting Bernie soon to find out how he can again support QS ImpACT and its changemakers now that he’s got his feet back on dry land.

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