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 at South Tyneside College.
Mihaela Istrate, 32, found herself high and dry after boarding ship with the incorrect safety training certificates in Australia.
Allowed to continue only as far as New Zealand, she sought help from South Shields Marine School, which is delivering part of her three years of training.
Bosses there turned to the generosity of the Dr Winterbottom Charitable Fund, a newly-established initiative by South Tyneside College, which operates the marine school.
The fund gives small-scale financial support from money it raises to students and others with links to the college, either at home or abroad.
Impressed by her 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 chair of governors at South Tyneside College, who helped establish the fund, said: “This is a perfect example of how Winterbottom can give small, targeted help to those who need it.
“When we heard about what had happened to Mihaela, 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.
A Learning Hardship Fund element gives small grants to students in need of short-term educational help, while a Health and Wellbeing Fund enables UK students to study and progress more effectively.
There is also a Business Start Up Fund, which supports budding college entrepreneurs.
Anyone who would like to support the Dr Winterbottom Charitable Fund should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0191 427 3717.