The project is a development from the existing Get Out There! Project. We will engage people with a history of homelessness or at risk of homelessness and those who are socially isolated with their local community through environmental conservation volunteering one day per week. The session would focus on practical work and will be varied including activities such as hedgelaying, coppicing, pond maintenance, creating wildlife habitats, improving access and safety to sites, wildlife surveys etc. Three out of four sessions would be at local sites such as wildlife areas in parks, schools, community spaces etc. The fourth would involve working at a larger site for example, Burnham Beeches. This gives volunteers the opportunity to be involved in a variety of tasks and sites throughout the year, including larger projects which take several sessions to complete (such as creating wildlife areas at schools) and one off sessions where an intensive days work will be sufficient (such as repairing gates and fences, or river bank maintenance).
Volunteers will feel more valued, confident and part of the community as they work together, support each other, share skills, make new friends and better understand each others cultures. Many will bring skills from previous employment in the construction industry, farming etc. and will be encouraged to use and share these. Other community groups will benefit from work on their gardens encouraging volunteers to link up.
Local volunteers are key to running this project: This application is based on their feedback. Some volunteers will become mentors to support the most vulnerable. Longer term some will become group leaders and run sessions ensuring sustainability of the project.
Volunteers will be encouraged to become ambassadors for the organisation, attending community meetings etc. and to sit on the steering group guiding the project.
Case study from a volunteer named Kevin:
Brought up in foster care, I left school at 16 and got an office job which I turned into a career in the court service for about 20 years. Private life got out of control due to social life with the more ‘bohemian’ elements which led to recreational drug use which led to hard drug addiction, family break up, loss of career, bankruptcy, homelessness, complete loss of self-confidence and self-worth. I was starting to ‘turn a corner’ and had engaged with drug and housing services. It was decided that one tool for helping me to progress was to find activities to stimulate my interest in life – my key worker at Broadway housing showed me a leaflet and website for Get Out There! and I applied. I admit that initially I was attracted to the free lunch and free boots!
Once the course started, I quickly discovered that the more I attended, the more I enjoyed it. Apart from the obvious benefits of fresh air and exercise, I rediscovered my deep seated love of nature and the environment. I also found myself wanting to learn again. The things that I enjoyed about the course made a dramatic difference to my life. I very quickly started feeling physically better. My age and the years of self abuse and stress had taken their toll but the course put a real spring in my step. I found the course personally rewarding and got a real sense of achievement which did wonders for my self confidence. The increase in self confidence and self worth has given me the impetus to carry on addressing my personal problems. I continue to engage with other agencies and I’m now short listed for re-housing and successfully continue to address my long term addiction issues.