NATURE CRAFT AT HOME
What this project will do
This little project will bring nature crafts to our local disadvantaged families in their homes. Through the 2020 summer holidays and beyond they will have some things to do that have a natural focus, help them relax a little and remind them of great times in the woods or other wild places. And it gets those bored hands making! We want to raise at least £1000 to get 60 packs made up. Every £15 beyond this will add another pack.
Please help us to put more smiles on Taunton children's faces this summer.
What we've learned in lockdown
Through this pandemic and the lockdown, many more of us have found nature to be a place of release and a salve to our souls. Those of us who have gardens, or have been able to exercise in 'wild' places can feel the benefits. We've also learned that lots of people have much less access to the outdoors and what it can give them, even in a rural county like Somerset - where we are based. This might be a lack of physical access or through lack of confidence, or time or something else.
Our experience here at Neroche Woodlanders also tells us that making things - crafting and creating - is a good way to focus busy minds and bored hands. This focus can take us away from worry and into a more positive place. Making beautiful creations gives us joy. They don't need to be perfect, just good enough. Making things with natural resources brings added mindfulness and goodness because of different textures, smells and colours. Learning happens along the way, as a part of the play. Not everyone has access to nice resources, and as times get financially harder, more families are finding it difficult.
So, early in lockdown we decided that as we do have access to 100 acres of woodland full of resources, and loads of ideas from years of running Forest School, we would try making up packs and delivering them to the local families that we’ve worked with in Taunton. It was a bit of a crazy idea as we don't usually make things for people to take away - we normally follow the children's and parents' ideas and help them make or do what they are interested in. That's called being 'learner centred'.
So we needed to be creative, think quite widely about what would work and give children and parents some options. Here are some things children from different households have made - a stick nest, a stick picture weaving and a pinecone bee mobile.
How we tested our Nature Craft at Home packs
So we started putting together an ideas list and asked some of our long-standing volunteers if they would help us design and make up the packs. Of course we also did a COVID19 risk assessment to keep us and those receiving packs safe.
Initially we trialled giving out free packs to 16 families - they took us a long time to make up! As the weeks went by we got quicker, and the social services asked if we could do some for families supported by the Somerset Inclusion Team. Twice as many packs, in about the same amount of time!
The first pack contents looked like this:
Why we want your help now
The trial has worked really well, and now more people and local community groups are asking for us to make them.
We mostly work with and support families who have the least access to nature, for whatever reason. Sometimes families are referred to us, or they hear about our work from a neighbour. Usually we would bring these families to the woods for regular families’ Forest School sessions to play, make friends, let go of their stresses and to learn about nature. So your support will help those who have the least.
Families have told us that the packs make a real difference - even though they long to come back to the woods. For now we cannot bring them back to the woods, so nature packs are a really important stop gap. One parent said "Thank you so much for these lovely packs ! The kids got stuck in straight away. xxx loved her spinner and xxx 'wand' was perfect for his Ninja moves."
Parents are sending us photos so we can share what's happening and how the children are able to make things at home. Take a look at these photos of children using our packs - one is making a teddy bear's den, the other a stick person, another making her nest. It really touches us to see how such creativity can be sparked.
So our challenge NOW is to help these families feel connected to nature and to find ways to ease the stresses of a summer with little to do.
What your money will do
Through this project, we will provide Nature Craft at Home Packs for local disadvantaged families to be distributed by the community centres and organisations in Taunton whom we would usually be working with over the summer holidays.
We have two staff plus two or three volunteers to design activity sheets, prepare resources and pack bags. Other volunteers wind wool into balls and help us gather materials. How many we can make depends on how much funding we can raise. It costs us about £15/pack, not including delivery.
Each pack has three or four activities, and pretty much everything that is needed to make things, plus a bit extra to spark more ideas - even some new sharpie pens to colour things in. We use a lot of sticks from our winter prunings, all of which need cutting to length.
We hand-write the sheets and test them out so we know the instructions work. Packaging is recycled/re-used or low environmental impact, paper is FSC certified and recycled.
It’s a team effort! Packing takes a bit of organising. We make videos and post them on our fb page so families can see what to do if the instructions are complicated, and they can stay in touch with us.
Our mascot watches over the packs being made...
A little bit extra
We now also want to offer more support to help families keep themselves emotionally well, as times are proving so hard. If we can get enough funding, we will run online parent-chat meetings to share experiences of lockdown issues, using the Way of Council to support the deep listening and discussion. We use this practice with our staff team and find it really helpful, and Jenny runs a regular local women’s group this way.
Who are Neroche Woodlanders anyway?
We are a small, award winning woodland social enterprise on the edge of the Blackdown Hills in Somerset, based at Young Wood - 100 acres of wild, diverse Forestry Commission woodland, teeming with wildlife. Our mission is to ‘work with nature to fire spirits, kindle community and foster wellbeing‘.
Usually at this time of year, we would be running weekend sessions of ‘Families in the Forest’ to get local disadvantaged families into the woods to play, learn and de-stress. We would be crafting, exploring, playing, cooking on the campfire and helping the most stressed and stretched parents to get a bit of a break. When families come to the woods they feel more relaxed, stress levels drop, and mental health improves. We've always worked with families from Taunton and have good links with the local community centres, social services and local council staff.
We would also be bringing adults to the woods on weekdays, to help those with mental health issues and in recovery from difficult parts of their lives. We would walk through the woods, practice mindfulness, chat, learn green-wood skills, carry out woodland conservation tasks and cook together over the campfire. Over weeks or months people gradually re-discover themselves, build their confidence and set their feet back into the world. Some move back into work and others come and join us as long term volunteers. Adults come to us via MIND, the Somerset NHS mental health team, the job centre or because they have heard about us from a friend or advisor. These sessions have always been free to access, supported by adult learning funds.
We have a wonderful team of experienced volunteers who help us run sessions and look after the woods. Right now they are helping us to redesign our camp to be ready for socially-distanced, safe activities, with more hand-washing stations, more log benches, and more open areas for children to play. We will reopen sessions when it is safe to do so.
These are unprecedented times, and together we are stronger, and communities across the country are helping rebuild connections that have been lost during lockdown. With nature as our guide, we can go on creating and re-creating community connections so that people can meet, de-stress and play - safely - in the woods.
Thank you for your help. At the heart of what we do is the idea of reciprocity. We give to the woods, and the woods give back to the people. If we look after our Earth, then she will take care of us. By helping families who have the least to get a tiny bit more nature connection we can establish links that may last a lifetime and open up possibilities.
Crowdfunder is making it 100% free for community and charity crowdfunding projects during the coronavirus crisis - so all money you donate comes to us and not to them.