New charity fund helps trainee mariner reach her goal

Maritime cadet Mihaela Istrate with Les Watson of the Dr Winterbottom Charitable Fund at South Shields Marine School.
Maritime cadet Mihaela Istrate with Les Watson of the Dr Winterbottom Charitable Fund at South Shields Marine School.
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A trainee mariner from Romania has embarked on the next stage of her career after gaining a wave of support from a new charity fund in South Tyneside.

Mihaela Istrate, 32, found herself high and dry after boarding ship with the incorrect safety training certificates in Australia.

She was allowed to continue only as far as New Zealand and sought help from South Shields Marine School, which is delivering part of her three years of training.

Bosses at the college turned to the Dr Winterbottom Charitable Fund - a newly-established initiative by South Tyneside College, which operates the marine school.

The fund, named in honour of the college’s founder, gives small-scale financial support to students and others with links to the college, either at home or abroad.

Impressed by Mihaela’s commitment to learning, it paid for two weeks of accommodation in South Shields so that she could sit a short course to gain the right level certificates.

Mihaela, from Targoviste, near Bucharest, said: “Getting this support felt a bit like a miracle. It has helped me greatly and I’m very happy.

“I didn’t expect to be sent back from the ship. I didn’t know that my certificates were not the right ones.

“I’m just starting out on this career, it was a bit difficult to know where to turn. This support has helped me very much and made a big difference to me.”

Mihaela began her cadetship in October on a course operated in partnership between South Shields Marine School and Romanian Nautical College in Constanta, Romania.

After disembarking in New Zealand, she was flown to the UK by the maritime company which is sponsoring her training, so that she could sit the required course.

Les Watson, the former college chairman of governors, who helped establish the fund, said: “This is a perfect example of how Winterbottom can give small, targeted help to those who need it.

“We knew straight away that the fund would be able offer the exact support she needed.

“By paying for her accommodation, we have been able to give a tremendous boost to Mihaela’s ambitions of becoming a deck officer.”

The Dr Winterbottom Charitable Fund, which has three support strands, launched last year to help and inspire students in learning and life.

It is named after Dr Thomas Masterman Winterbottom, the founder of the 19th century marine and technical school on which South Tyneside College was founded.