Working with vulnerable young people is a challenge, delight and privilege. Read on the understand the difference that time at the farm makes
“85% of the children who access PH services (and visit Shallowford Farm) come from disadvantaged backgrounds, falling into the single-parent household bracket, living in cramped often overcrowded conditions, have witnessed or been a victim of violence or have known of someone who has been involved in some level of violent crime”.
– PH youth leader
Crime Prevention Panel Report
The youth group consisted of a mixed group of young people age 12-16. 5 boys and 4 girls.
All young people and their families are from the local area and also attend the youth club regularly. The boys all… are susceptible and vulnerable to engaging in anti-social behaviour.
The farm life and activities are varied and the wide open spaces give a lot more outlet for active energetic young people to run, laugh, roll down hills and splash in puddles. There are still challenges to being in this environment and being in close proximity to others some of whom you don’t like. The boys especially this time found this a challenge and some intervention had to take place in relation to two boys whose play fighting and banter went too far. This was particularly useful as it gave them time to reflect on their feelings and actions and to think about their individual journeys and boundaries as well as the dynamics of relating to each other.
The girls again all local to Providence and 3 of the 4 living on the Winstanley estate. They are at an age where they are still open to being shaped and changed by these positive experiences …. gave space to talk about their decision making, the importance of education and what they are aspiring to do when they complete school.
The activities undertaken at the farm are all underpinned by three principle values:
1.Respect All Things
2. Keep everyone safe
3. Try / Learn something new
These three values were very present on our latest trip and help to underline expectations and boundaries and life lesson to take back to their home environments. On this particular trip, we had an extensive conversation about manners around the table, communication and consideration of people. Every young person tried something new including for some going on night walks and overcoming fears of the dark. One young person, in particular, has struggled with this and was able to see how they had tried something new and built his resilience in an unknown situation. We also spent time talking about the qualities of a good shepherd as the young people were involved in caring for the new-born lambs and the ewes about to give birth. This gave a great sense of personal responsibility to the young people and it was evident that they all expressed care and concern for the welfare of the animals. There were able to clearly identify the need for a shepherd to be disciplined and hardworking as well as knowledgeable and caring.
Being able to underline these lessons in a totally different environment means that it is less about the young person feeling they are being targeted due to negative behaviour, attitudes or labels as it is in the context of a new and very different place where there are real but different dangers to living on the estate or attending school with peers. There is a safety in the relationships being built with staff and workers as well as the group of peers which encourages an environment to grow and gain a greater life perspective.