How does feeding a goat, and cleaning smelly cages help vulnerable young people at risk of being excluded from school?
‘It gives them an opportunity to open up about themselves in a safe and positive space,’ says Jo Finch, who is Education Officer at Oasis Farm Waterloo.
The farm is situated in the middle of London, and works in partnership with the charity ‘Jamie’s Farm’, helping local schools support vulnerable 11-16 year olds by improving their self-esteem and exercise self-control.
‘Young people come to the farm over a six-week period,’ says Jo. We get background details for each child.
‘They might be in care or foster families, or there are issues at home such as alcohol or drug addiction; parents who have mental health issues, or just plain poverty. It may sound a bit negative but actually we have a lot of fun.
‘The young people get stuck in with the farm work and have to overcome fears and dislikes, for example dealing with worms or shovelling animal droppings!
Every day we have ‘Shout Out’ time where group members say something positive about their peers and get used to giving and receiving praise. We ask children how they are feeling and they can reply with words, a picture or a thumbs up. They usually want to show us their best selves.
‘One mother dropped off her 11-year-old son and warned us he would not take part due to his autism. He became fascinated with our bee keeping demonstration and volunteered to put on the protective gear and help.
A little girl who was so socially anxious, that she never spoke, amazed everyone by joining in the Shout Out session.’
For more info on Jamie’s Farm: https://jamiesfarm.org.uk/