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Nurturing the right attitude is very important to us. “I can’t” and “it’s not my fault” are two of the most common hurdles we face. Winning and losing are huge things to these boys and showing them how important it is to change our attitude towards failing in order to succeed, is life changing.
The nurture, care and skills that go into making even simple objects with us is reflected in their eyes in the form of pure pride and that wonderful sense of achievement.
The boxes that are ticked when working outside and on small projects, with young people who have had traumatic starts to their lives, are numerous and far-reaching.
During the course of a small project, for example, a student will inevitably be involving – dexterity and hand-eye co-ordination, they will need to be able to listen and take instruction. We will involve the use of as many different tools as possible. Maths and English are integrated and are embraced, perhaps more readily than in their subject areas. The sense of self-worth and achievement is enormous. The deserved praise, a slap on the back and genuine “well done” goes a long way.
As the young people spend more time with us, we constantly and purposefully show them, by example, healthy working practices. We are all natural mimics, which makes it all the more important to lead by example.
Sometimes we believe it is essential to adjust our aims to most benefit the individual. We want them to ultimately make a mallet, for example, but not to the detriment of their enjoyment of the subject. If their mind is not in the right place, how can forcing the issue bring a positive result? Through nurture and empathy we still get the mallet made, it just takes a little longer and we’ve all learned valuable lessons along the way.
Some of these young people have never really experienced the countryside and only really know the things they’ve seen on TV. Bear Grylls will be familiar to some, so they respond very well when they discover they will be learning survival skills, fire-starting, shelter building, knot tying, navigations skills and tree/plant identification to name but a few. All of these things foster positive and rewarding outcomes. As their confidence and knowledge increases, the diversity and complexity of the tasks increase, so there is no stagnation and no end to the exciting and fulfilling projects we can offer.
One of the young people we worked with had an unhealthy relationship with fire. We went out of our way to light controlled fires with him every day. In time, the ‘novelty’ wore off and he no longer felt the need to light fires at every opportunity. He left understanding the nature of fire, both wonderful and devastating. If no one ever shows them how to do these things properly, how will they ever learn?
In conjunction with our roles as tutors and educators, we also become role models, mentors and friends. We understand the importance of maintaining a professional working relationship with these young men, alongside appropriate banter and humour indicative of the behaviour found in the work place.
We are incredibly fortunate to have access to 33 acres of largely coniferous woodland and a near limitless supply of timber. We make as much use of this natural resource as possible. Wood is a wonderfully diverse material and can be used for many different projects, large and small. The young people played a large part in the construction of the hut we work from, using our own timber.
We continue to improve and update our ‘hut’ or workshop to this day. We own a Sawmill from which we can produce planks of wood which have a real commercial value. The majority of the trees we fell are coniferous and most are around 30 years old. It is our intention to replant where trees have been felled with deciduous trees thereby creating a healthy and more diverse woodland for the generations to come.
In conclusion, we believe ‘Woodlands’ is an organisation of quality and excellence, largely due to the quality and excellence of its staff.
The holistic approach we use is incredibly effective and would be diminished by the loss of any one of the departments. The Care, Therapy and Education work together in a symbiotic relationship to effect a positive change in the futures of these young people.