‘It’s not what you said that I remember, it’s how you made me feel.’

The GROW programme is the heart and soul of life at Amelia Trust.

If you follow us on Facebook you’ll have seen our regular updates about what happens on the GROW programme. Perhaps you’ve seen photos of the GROW team looking after the animals, being creative in the kitchen, or getting stuck into wood work in the workshop. Even though we can show you what GROW involves, it’s not so easy for us to describe the depth of the impact the programme can have on our young people.

To give you a better idea of how the GROW programme can support young people, we wanted to introduce you to Richard.

Richard is a volunteer who helps out with GROW.

Richard in the Animal Centre

As a recent retiree, Richard has been volunteering with the GROW programme since September 2021. He’s been involved in everything from cooking fajitas and working out in the gym, to mucking out the donkeys and looking after the ferrets, so he’s well versed in GROW programme activities. But if we look deeper than the activities themselves, how does GROW help our young people develop?

We had a chat with Richard to hear his first-hand account of life on the GROW programme and why he decided to get involved.

Why did you get involved with the GROW programme?

I knew I wanted to be active in retirement and I was looking for something I could really get into. I visited the Farm with my wife and as soon as I saw a line of kids with a wheelbarrow trudging towards the fields, I knew that was where I wanted to be.

What’s the difference between GROW at Amelia Trust and mainstream education?

The GROW programme helps the children to grow as people, because there is less pressure than school. It’s more about pastoral care, and the needs of each individual. I’m keen to promote good mental health myself, and the activities the programme includes, like walking in the woods, cooking, and being with the animals, directly helps the children’s mental health and self-esteem.

Why do you think GROW is successful?

The environment has a lot to do with it. Being outside, in nature and with the animals is huge. The Farm setting is ideal. I’ve heard some of the children say they love it here, and I think even those that don’t say it out loud will recognise how wonderful this setting is in a few years time.

How would you describe the GROW programme?

The GROW programme has a calming influence on the young people. It teaches them long term life skills that will genuinely help them when they leave the Farm. I think it helps young people to become balanced, well-adjusted citizens who will fit in well in the world of work.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that everyone involved in the GROW programme gets stuck in, and all of the tutors lead by example. It’s all about encouraging each other and creating a positive environment.
The activities are so varied that there’s always so much to learn, but one occasion does stick out in my mind:

One of the ducks was poorly, and he really wasn’t doing too well. With the help of the Animal Care team, one of the young people started to bathe the duck, another was bathing his eye, another got a cage, and another found hay to make sure the duck was comfortable. Everyone was doing something. It wasn’t a great situation to have an animal that was unwell, but without being asked, all of the young people got involved in helping to make the duck feel better. Everyone cared, everyone wanted to help, and they were one team.

It made me think about a phrase my wife says: ‘It’s not what you said that I remember, it’s how you make me feel.’ I think all of the young people will remember that feeling of collective responsibility and helping out together.

Richard with members of the GROW team

How do you feel about being part of GROW at Amelia Trust?

Proud. I always look forward to the next week, and I’m keen to remain part of the programme.

Like Richard, we’re very proud of GROW and everything it has achieved over the last 30 years. Every year there are more young people who would benefit from the support GROW offers, and volunteers like Richard are a huge help to our small charity.

If you’d like to get involved with GROW, you can find out how to volunteer here. Or, for just £10 a month, you can become a Friend of the Farm and help give a young person the chance of a brighter future.

To find out more about becoming a Friend of the Farm, get in touch!