Dundee woman used to avoid boats… now she is acting sergeant with Royal Marine cadets

We usually focus on paid-for jobs in this feature — but have you ever thought about volunteering?

You learn new skills, make crucial new contacts, it looks good on your wider CV and, best of all, you’re helping with worthwhile groups.

Meet Wendy Laing.

Her day job is in education, she has varied pastimes but was never one for uniforms and had no interest in the military.

However, when a friend suggested she could help out at her local Sea Cadets, everything changed.

Acting sergeant of the Royal Marines Wendy Laing.

“When it was first suggested I said I don’t do uniforms and please don’t put me on a boat,” recalls Wendy, 47.

“I was brought along to help make a promotional film about cadets. So I met the volunteers and the young people who were involved. And, I know it’s a cliche, but I wish I’d done this years ago.”

The Sea Cadets can trace their history back 160 years and, no, they’re not a recruiting tool for the Royal Navy or Royal Marines. They’re a charity which exists to help young people.

This was all news to Wendy, but when she got involved, she was sold.

Now Wendy, who lives in Dundee’s West End, is spending her Tuesday and Thursday evenings down at the Training Ship Duncan on East Camperdown Street.

“I’m now an acting sergeant working with the Royal Marine cadets and the kids are brilliant, so keen to learn and very motivated to get on.

“We’re teaching the cadets about sailing, swimming, first aid, all sorts of skills.

“Being in the cadets fosters self-esteem and confidence. It’s great to see young people come in and watch them grow — and I’m learning too.

“I’ve always been sporty but now I’m being trained up as a physical training instructor so I’ll be able to put together progammes for the cadets.

“What’s really good for me is that, from the outset, there was a welcoming atmosphere.

“It’s like a big, happy family and, while I knew nothing about the Navy or Marines, you learn a lot about their traditions and roles just by being here.

“There’s always something going on. We’re putting together a football team, there’s a band so if you want to learn to play an instrument, come along.

“What they do down here is fantastic and I’m proud to part of it.”

See? You don’t have to be ex-Navy, just enthusiastic and willing to help.

Some of the cadets’ 9,000 volunteers are from a naval or military background — but many aren’t.

They need people with energy, happy to roll up their sleeves, get involved, and make a positive difference to teenagers who are often struggling in today’s world.

So, if you love being out on the water and want to teach skills such as kayaking, sailing, powerboating, canoeing, rowing and windsurfing, give it some thought.

Don’t worry if you don’t have experience. With the cadets you can gain national qualifications with organisations such as the Royal Yachting Association.

Naturally, cadet instructors have to be of good standing in the community. So, if you want to learn more, contact TS Duncan on 01382 457829 or check out their Facebook.