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Covered in hay, smelling of cow, laughing with joy – it must be Jamie’s Farm time!

Published: 3 Jul 2014

Covered_in_hay__smelling_of_cow__laughing_with_joy_____it_must_be_Jamie___s_Farm_time_

Aspire have just finished three weeks of trips to Jamie’s Farm, taking Year 9 students from six different schools in the borough for week-long stays on a gorgeous farm in Wiltshire. Here, the students (and staff!) were thrown into farm life from the off – feeding the chickens and cleaning the pigs, forest walks and river swims, log chopping, cake baking, sheep wrestling action! This gave the young people a chance to experience things they would never be able to do in their everyday lives. They spoke with massive enthusiasm about this opportunity and, without exception, got fully involved in even the muckiest tasks.

More than this, though, they grew as individuals, building the confidence to work with previously terrifying animals, to say yes to challenges, to work as a team and as individuals in a completely new environment, often with people they didn’t know before. And it wasn’t just the activities either – the Farm is staffed by adults who are constantly providing rich, honest and constructive feedback to the young people, who are in turn encouraged to give such feedback to each other. The effect was overwhelming, and the ability for young people to take stock, to consider their behaviour, to consider their potential for growth had an amazing impact. We watched quiet young people turn into chatty and enthused hill walkers, and students who could be boisterous or negative in school get the opportunity to show how calm, sensitive and caring they could be. It was a chance for young people to be themselves, be the people they wanted to be for a week, to escape the labels and pressure of school and explore a whole new side to their character.

By the end of our weeks here, everyone was sad to leave. Several participants spoke about it being the best week of their life, all of them had completely forgotten about their fears of no phones and no TV that they started with, and they could travel back to London with amazing memories and plenty to think about for their future. As Aspire draws to a close, we can look back on these weeks as an incredible time for the development of the young people and a huge success for the project. Bring on next year!

One week in June on the farm...

What a scorcher! A beautifully warm and sunny farm greeted us on Monday, and stayed with us for the rest of the week. The journey up by bus had been interesting, with Langdon Park students being a little loud and excitable (with plenty of ‘are we there yet?’) and Swanlea being very quiet and reserved. As we toured round the farm, there was a bit of apprehension at the smells and the sounds, but this was quickly forgotten as the joy of the egg throwing put everyone in a great mood! And, sure enough, the divides in the schools began to break as much as the eggs – it was fantastic to see the students form the different schools begin to bond, and by the end of the week it was one inclusive group.

The rest of the week was a blur of good feeling. One young man, who was known as being a bit of a trouble maker, showed himself to be an enthusiastic, kind and caring individual, taking great care over the sick baby lambs, a side of him not often expressed back home. Another boy was known for struggling to make strong peer relationships found himself being liked and respected by the group and never short of someone to have a chat or play cricket with. Another girl’s leadership skills shone through, and her school-peers spoke about how surprised  and impressed they were at this new side to her. I could go on, but the overall story was the same – each young person had a great week and they proved to be a wonderful group of individuals. As staff, it was a privilege to see their development and share their accomplishments. On the bus home, I overheard a hilarious conversation on the bus home about how to escape school and find their way back to the Farm – clearly, the young people had as much fun as us!

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