Letting dreams set sail

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Joe is one of the many teenagers who turned their life around entirely after coming into foster care. He came a long way from not having a dream to now wanting to take on Sir Ben Ainslie, one of his biggest role models. Here Joe talks about his career plans as a sailor and why he sees foster carers as game changing for young people’s futures.

Since I came into care in 2013, everything has changed to the better. I have my own bedroom, I don't have to share clothes, I eat every day. I enjoy school now. I do stuff. My life would be so different if I wasn’t in foster care. Before, I never did anything other than roaming the streets, getting myself in and out of trouble all the time. I never had a dream. This has changed. My foster carers helped me understand what life has to offer and what you have to do to get whatever it is you want. They have shown me that you can make choices in life, and it’s up to you what you make of it.

Finding a calling

When I was younger, I couldn’t attend school for a variety of reasons, so my foster carer arranged home tuition for me. This was where I learnt how to read and write. I also participated in lots of activities such as wood work, kayaking, maths, camping, dirt biking, horse riding, mechanics, and most importantly, sailing! My foster carer and I signed up for a taster weekend at a local club – she hated it, I loved it. I seemed to understand it straight away and I suddenly felt comfortable – for the first time in my life.

When I am in my boat, feeling the water beneath me, the wind in my sails, it’s just me working and feeling the elements. This changes everything. No matter what problems there are in my life, this is a place where I am in control, no one is making decisions for me. It’s the only place I want to be at.

My biggest goal in life is to bring home the America’s Cup (move over Ben Ainslie! I am coming!). No, seriously, I want to spend my life at sea. I want to be involved with racing teams sailing on board super yachts. I also want to participate as a crew member of the Volvo Ocean Race. I do whatever I can to achieve this. I am currently studying for my GSCE’s and this summer I am doing my practical day skipper licence and volunteer work on-board with The Island Trust in Plymouth. I will then go to college for two years to study maritime engineering, and I hope to get to the UKSA on the Isle of Wight afterwards, where I will enrol in a four-year racing yacht master’s course.

Take away messages from being in care

Without being in care, I would not be able to do any of this. In foster care, I learnt to stop lying and started to be true to myself. If you lie to other people you are not fooling anyone, just yourself. Tell the truth, learn to take responsibility for good and bad choices because both are brilliant life lessons.

To young people in care I want to say, make the most of it, you will always have ups and downs, no matter where you are. Stick at it though, don't give up, fight through it and believe in other people’s ability to help you. Most of all, believe in yourself!

Advice to foster carers

If you are thinking of becoming a foster carer, I would say just do it. Do it to make a difference to kids and their futures. There weren't enough carers to take all my siblings at first, but I'm glad they came into care eventually. Now they're doing well in school, they are getting to do more stuff, and they are looked after properly. Foster carers need to show their belief in the child they foster, recognise their strengths, their weaknesses, and don't ever give up, because if you give up, the child gives up too.