In each issue of HemAware, we “Take 5” with people in the bleeding disorders community and spotlight their efforts with just five questions. Here, we talk with Brad Allain, a 25-year-old from Southbridge, Massachusetts, about his work with the World Ocean School. Allain has severe hemophilia A.
What is the World Ocean School?
The World Ocean School is a nonprofit organization that provides educational programs for underserved kids on a floating classroom—a restored fishing schooner called the Roseway, which was built in 1925 in Essex, Massachusetts. The school has a winter program in St. Croix and a summer program in Boston. Every spring and fall, it sails between the two locations.
What were your responsibilities?
I was a sail-handler. Onboard the Roseway, everything is done by hand, including hoisting 5,000 pounds’ worth of sails. The crew would raise the sails by hand, trim them and lower them. Going into this job, I had no sailing experience, but in a matter of weeks I was handling the sails like a pro. Being a sailor and sail-handler is very dangerous; sailors have gotten limbs chopped off, fingers broken, eyes poked out. The wind is very powerful, and when you’re dealing with 5,000 pounds’ worth of sail scooping up that wind—that’s a lot of force to handle with just your hands. My hemophilia did not hold me back from my duties as a sailor or a teacher. There were a few times I got muscle bleeds and had to infuse, but other than that everything went great.
What’s a day aboard the Roseway like?
When we were in St. Croix, we held weekly academic programs for junior high students. We used the ship to teach the kids about science, ecology, literature and physics as it pertained to their school curriculum. We tried to incorporate community skills: communication, teamwork, trust, self-worth, respect and reflection. Each program ran Monday through Friday for three hours a day. When the kids arrived, we would do some sort of interactive activity that would stress the community value of the day. Then, we would take the kids out sailing for three hours. After the sails were set, we would set up stations around the boat. Every 20 minutes or so, the kids would rotate to different stations.
What else does the Ocean School offer?
Summer day programs in Boston focus on maritime history, sail training and community building. It also provides expeditions for youth worldwide, focusing on community service, sail training, leadership, communications and natural history.
What will you take away from this experience?
I learned a lot about the importance of sailing. The history of sailing and sailboats is ingrained in our past and culture. My favorite memory is being in the middle of the Atlantic in the middle of the night steering the boat. The only thing you can see is the back-lit compass to keep your direction.
The smartest thing you can do as a person with hemophilia is stay in good physical shape and eat a healthy diet. I’ve been a Class V whitewater rafting guide, a rock climbing guide, an Alaskan zip-line guide and a mountain biking guide. I’m able to do all of these things because I work hard and I know how important it is to stay fit. Don’t let hemophilia hold you back from your dreams.