Getting to know Kay Rawbone
Co-founder & CEO of Sailability Hong Kong Limited
Place of Birth:
Year of Arrival in Hong Kong:
What brought you to Hong Kong?
My late husband's job and the thrill of working in a different country.
How did you get involved with the special needs community?
Having been involved all my life with SEN with a family member with Down Syndrome and becoming a PHAB member in the UK from age 14 plus other charitable organisations, it was something I enjoyed being part of and supporting.
Being an HR professional in the UK and a people-centric person, when arriving in HK in 2003 as a spouse, I immediately looked for charitable work to do which led me to The Nesbitt Centre in 2004. I started as a volunteer as spouses were at that time exempt from working and once it opened up again I became a member of staff as Director of Work Opportunities and latterly as Operations Director until 2018 when I reverted to being a part-time consultant with them.
How are you currently involved with the special needs community in Hong Kong?
Through Sailability Hong Kong Limited which takes up the majority of my time and I still work with The Nesbitt Centre Limited on a very part-time basis in connection with work opportunities.
Please tell us about the programme.
Sailability was set up by my late husband, Mike, and myself in 2009 to offer sailing to people with disability both physical and SEN/Autism etc. We started the programme with 4 Nesbitt Students with SEN in 2009 and are now seen as the biggest in Asia by the Hong Kong Sailing Federation, Asian Sailing Federation and World Sailing because of the demographic we support. We meet every area of their strategic direction. Mike and I saw the benefits of sailing together with its accessibility to our boats and the inclusiveness it offers to everyone.
From our start in 2009 to the end of 2021 we had conducted in excess of 15,000 individual sailing lessons and are currently seeing between 250 - 300 sailors each month join our programmes. Many sailors join for recreation but we also have a pathway to progress to represent sailing at local regattas, regionally and now internationally with the inclusion of SEN into World Sailing. We have in the past taken students with SEN to represent HK in Australia and Japan as well as competing in local regattas on a regular basis.
Who is eligible to apply?
Sailability offers sailing to EVERYONE, irrespective of ability, age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or status within our community in HK. We break down barriers and offer what is seen as an expensive sport to participate in, to all with a pathway for some with the various programmes we run.
What age groups do you work with?
From 7 years old and our eldest sailor to date is 86 years - a very spritely lady who thoroughly enjoyed herself.
Are you able to accommodate different types of special needs?
Yes, we are. There are a number of special schools and organisations currently joining our programmes within their school curriculum. Others with various types of special needs join our longest-running Saturday Programme, whilst others join programmes through various charities and organisations. For those who have mobility issues, we also have a hoist to gain ease of access into our boats.
What are some positive outcomes you have seen over the years in the children who have joined the programme?
Increased confidence, self-esteem, independence, increased physical activity, communication, new friendships, learning a new skill with a pathway for some to become volunteers with us helping others to learn a sport they have become proficient in. Some of our SEN and Autistic students return as volunteers and their parents are so very proud.
Are there any opportunities for parents to participate as well?
Parents are welcome to sail with their children or to come along and volunteer with other groups when children are at school. With many of the schools who join us, we can arrange sail training for teachers, parents and carers to enjoy the sailing experience together.
What have been some of the rewards and challenges of working with children with special needs?
We change lives and seeing the difference after attending a course or even a day's sailing is amazing. We all look at what a person can do and many can do much more with the right support within the right environment with people who care. Yes, we sometimes have challenges, but fortunately not many.
We have a team of people some of whom are trained in the field of SEN, SWD, Doctors, OTs, Nurses etc and our volunteers all participate in Disability Awareness in order to provide the best sailing experience to all who join us. If we do encounter a problem we find a way to overcome and improve the service we provide.
Where can parents find more information about Sailability and how to apply?
The best way to contact me is by email: email@example.com or phone: 9808 0570.