It took seven months and just over a dozen volunteers now My Brothers Workshop is ready to launch its’ very first boat.
“There was a lot of sanding involved so we were there for hours,” Kielli Donoghue, My Brothers Workshop Trainee.
Kielli Donoghue was one of those volunteers.
He was the only one that can see he was there for the entirety of the project.
That’s why he got a special place on “Grace.”
“I did gain a lot of knowledge, also learned about bending wood, using it in a steam box hot chamber, it was very moist,” Donoghue added.
The trainees at My Brothers Workshop are generally high risk and at risk youth – anywhere from 16 to 24 — that have maybe dropped out of school, are marginally literate and live in poverty.
The non-profit provides paid training and mentoring to give these men and women skills they need to be successful in life, and to stay away from cycles of gangs, crimes, drugs and violence.
“The bonds the relationships with these guys, these teens, these young adults, they’re the best. Just get a tool in their hand and they’ll surprise you. Our proudest moments are when they know more than us,” Charles Martin Jr an instructor with My Brother’s Workshop said.
The kids couldn’t do it alone.
Instructors like Martin Jr. help them learn things like carpentry, plumbing and in this case, marine building.
They created a floating, usable wooden boat.
Instructors said what students took away from this is much bigger than the boat.
“It’s just the potential that they have that we’re trying to key in on. I’ve been at the high schools we’ve done similar things but at MBW we’ve taken it to the next level and actually build the boats. It’s just a thrill watching them progress, in their development and their skills, and also their excitement about the boat. When we take it out and do the boat launches. It’s an exciting day for us,” instructor Stan Lorbach said.
Following a brief ceremony and a boat christening, it was ready to launch.
The My Brothers Workshop marine program wouldn’t have taken off without the help of a grant and a partnership between the non-profit and the marine community.
“With thanks to community foundation of the Virgin Islands there’s a fund called Marine Rebuild Fund. That’s actually raised $200,000 through Friends of the Virgin Islands and that started the inaugural My Brother’s Workshop Marine year and we’re always looking funding for subsequent years. Of course it isn’t free to have a full time instructor and Dr. Stan Lorbach, and all the students benefit by not only being able to learn skills but them apply them in a work environment in a course in MBW,” Oriel Blake, Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association said.
The skills these trainees’ are taking away go beyond grace.
They’ll have them for a lifetime.
And of course, for the next boat they build which the students can’t wait to get to work on.