Cadet First Class Lewis has been a cadet since he was 10 years old. He has Asperger’s, dyspraxia and hypermobility. His mum, Alison, says Sea Cadets has helped him to overcome the obstacles that these create. She says:
"Lewis has achieved so much in self-esteem and confidence from his time in the Sea Cadets. He has been an active member of the unit since the start. He has Asperger’s, dyspraxia and hypermobility and finds many activities difficult, or he can take longer than others to do them. With unit instructors' encouragement and belief in him, he has overcome the many obstacles that got in his path. His communication and social skills have come along, he is more independent and confident in himself, and this is also the same for his school life and how he approaches his work."
“Being a cadet is hard. That’s the truth. I have been a cadet for a year or so now and it’s hard and it’s challenging, but it’s also exciting, adventurous and packed full of fun.
"On my first night, I found myself standing outside my unit behind a group of what I later found out were very friendly cadets. As soon as they saw me they all introduced themselves and made me feel really welcome and a lot more comfortable.
“I stayed the whole parade night and made new friends. The volunteers were so friendly and answered any questions I had, showed me where to go and talked to me all about Sea Cadets.
“There are so many opportunities within Sea Cadets, so many people to meet, courses to go on, and competitions and events to take part in. You find new interests and things you’re good at. I went sailing, and the first time was pretty scary, but I thought to myself, ‘You’re a sea cadet, you can’t be afraid of the water’, and it turned out I was silly to be. It was great and so much safer than I thought. I found a new talent of mine: I am now a level-four sailor, I have sailed offshore and I have competed in several sailing competitions and regattas.
"A lot of my life revolves around Sea Cadets and I am thankful for that, because I do so much more than anyone I know who does not go to Sea Cadets. I love it.”
"When I joined Sea Cadets I was just 13 years of age and brought up in a disadvantaged area of Belfast. I was immature but the immaturity always hides the confidence that I lack, I was always very low on self-esteem. I never believed that I was going anywhere in life or that I could ever be successful in anything. This affected my life and my parents' lives dramatically.
"Since joining Sea Cadets, where I am now as a person to what I was then is like comparing a three-wheeled children’s tricycle to a top-of-the-range motorcycle. Without Sea Cadets I'd possibly be smoking and drinking on street corners by the age of 16.
“The qualifications I’ve got in three years are remarkable, they include my physical training; my powerboating licence, which means I can drive a speedboat anywhere in the world; marine engineering, which means I have an understanding of engines, which opens up so many doors for job roles. These are only some of around 35 qualifications I have.
"I can't thank Sea Cadets enough, it has truly changed my life forever."