We have the smell of freedom in our nostrils at the moment as the 19th of July looms as a date for lifting our Covid restrictions. I wonder what this will mean for us all – but sense we will all adapt in different ways -some of us revelling and partying, others hanging onto the simplicity of ‘being out of touch’, and many who will celebrate the changes to their isolation and chance to rebuild business lives.
What I do know for sure is that for everyone, being able to have a hug, see family and friends, and reconnect will be wonderful; as we all need human touch to maintain our social ties and sense of wellness.
We have continued to work hard and fast at the Foundation since last writing. This quarter has been busy with a myriad of groups, one to one, family and couples therapy sessions outdoors and the joys of our school groups coming back to us for environmental education. During April we could run smaller holiday camps which were sold out in a heart beat, and the allotments kept producing quantities of organic good food. Nature was not stopping for anything – thankfully!
We have continued to contributing to the climate change work that Essex County Council is spearheading and starting up groups of younger people to develop eco-advocacy around climate, sustainability and the environment in general with our Green Influencers programme and the Eco-Defenders, who will work out of the allotments in Chelmsford.
We have – after a major lull – got our Scottish ‘Treun’ (Brave) project off the ground with groups scheduled for September again, and our South African wilderness expeditions for some have been redirected to Scotland for conservation volunteering and a canoe based adventure in the west, along Loch Shiel. We have made a lot of lemonade from lemons (so to speak) and every day is a day of making a difference to both people and nature – which fits the model of Ikigai (Japanese concept of having a purpose to wake to each day).
I wanted to dedicate this note however, not just to what we do as a team, but to the myriad of volunteers that make all the wheels turn in the Foundation. We have close to 50 volunteers – all choosing a niche of our work that calls to them and they contribute to, in whatever way they can. Without our volunteers we would be really strapped and could not achieve as much a we do. They have to do training, go through Safer Recruitment Processes, and other governance checks which can be time consuming and could appear bureaucratic but are essential to maintain our safety and quality of service. They do this uncomplainingly.
Volunteering includes mentoring for our TurnAround young people on a weekly basis – a commitment to being regular and reliable for young people who have often been let down somewhere in their young lives- attending workshops and social evenings and helping us with conversation, games and the harder emotional literacy and strength building that lies at the heart of the programme. Others help on a day to day basis on programmes such as Brave Futures for adults, children and teens, Out There for young teens and asylum seekers, and those with special education needs, and the domestic violence for women and adolescent programmes.
The camps in the holidays rely heavily on volunteer support, so do the Special Education Needs groups that come three times a week. Volunteers there do woodwork and hands on projects, bring laughter, fun and skills and on our allotments physical labour and gardening skills to a rampant six plots. They support, chat and nurture not only the plants but the young people who attend with a myriad of disabilities, mental health or recovery from addiction histories. Then there are the unseen volunteers who help in the office with admin, the Trustees who put endless hours of graft in overseeing the charity, and the ambassadors, young and old, who promote our work and support our outreach.
They all dedicate time from busy lives and family to do this work. The tasks and conversations can be gruelling and full of pain at times because of the nature of our clients and why then are referred to us. However, volunteers shine a light into the process. Many young people comment how much it means to them to have someone do this work because ‘they want to’, and the fact that they are not paid- in contrast to their perception of other professionals who could engage with them for remuneration.
And they bring light because they allow us full time staff the time to get on with the specialist tasks, such as facilitation, or therapy, or conflict resolution or leading and designing programmes for the 100 or so school children who visit on any given day. Our volunteers are uncomplaining in their tasks which can include offering comfort and care, games of manhunt and capture the flag, cooking endless sausages, washing up, managing logistics of education tasks, talking one to one with clients or in smaller groups, and helping us set up and take down camp each day…they add knowledge and wealth of experience of other jobs and lives outside of the programmes that enrich everyone.
Here is to our Volunteer heroes.. if only we could offer an equivalent Wilderness Cross for valiant, dedicated community service.
Thanks to you all and the knowledge that you share the work with us and beside us each day to make a huge difference to people and the magnificent wild world around us.