The Lake District Charity Calvert Trust faces closure if gaps in funding are not bridged, reports Hannah Mitchell. Find out about the important work the trust does for visitors with disabilities and how you can help.
For over 40 years, access for visitors with disabilities to the Lake District National Park has been provided by registered charity The Lake District Calvert Trust. However, this access is now under threat after the centre was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and in December 2020 the centre launched an emergency appeal for funds to avoid its closure.
Outdoor Education centres suffered disproportionately during the pandemic due to governmental restrictions on residential visits and Calvert is no different in this respect. What is different about the centre, however, is what it provides for those who otherwise might not be able to access the outdoors.
The centre creates developmental opportunities for all levels of disability led by experienced and highly qualified instructors. Calvert Trust challenges perceptions through outdoor activities such as climbing, sailing, horse riding and ghyll scrambling. Activity sessions such as orienteering and bush craft teach valuable skills and outdoor etiquette, helping to build confidence in the countryside.
Three participants laughing with an instructor of the Lake District Calvert Trust while sailing on Windermere. Photo: Calvert Trust
The Bounce Back Appeal was launched by the centre, imploring the public for donations in order to save the charity. Centre Director Sean Day explains:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has left the Trust with a £1 million gap in its income. Calvert Lakes relies heavily on special school educational visits as one of its main sources of income. However, the lockdown and blanket ban on schools taking residential trips has wiped out visitor numbers.”
Calvert’s picturesque farmhouse setting overlooking Bassenthwaite Lake offers catered overnight accommodation and is accessible throughout; the trust is able to cater for profound and complex disabilities.
Despite attempts to streamline into a ‘pandemic friendly’ business model, offering COVID-safe, standalone B&B accommodation, Calvert is still struggling.
“We have worked tirelessly to bring in additional revenue wherever possible. Every single penny helps but, unfortunately, revenue generated from B&B accommodation is never going to bridge the gap,” said Sean.
Many of Calvert’s guests are living with complex health conditions and are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus. The majority of clientele and their families have been forced to shield during the worst of the 2020 pandemic.
“What brings our current situation into even sharper focus is that once this pandemic is over the ‘Calvert experience’ will be needed more than ever, not only by our current beneficiaries but also the many people affected by COVID-19 and the impact it has had on everyone’s lives and wellbeing,” said Sean.
In a study carried out as part of the appeal, Lakes Calvert Trust surveyed a number of beneficiaries and their carers. The study found that 80% of participants felt that their physical or mental health had been impacted by being unable to take a holiday in 2020, and that 87% would or could not access an alternative provider of activity breaks if Calvert Trust centres were to cease operations permanently.
“Without external support our contingency funds will be exhausted by March 2021, despite really careful financial management. We are facing permanent closure and if we lose our facilities, our services and our staff, they may never be replaced,” added Sean.
Assuming the efficacy of the new vaccine, Calvert Trust will play a monumental part in many people’s return to ‘normality’, if it can only survive the winter.
We want to say a big thanks to every BMC member who continues to support us through the Coronavirus crisis.
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