Lambourne End Centre more than just cute animals and helps thousands of marginalised children
PUBLISHED: 10:00 17 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:43 18 April 2017
With rabbits hopping across their pens, lambs joyfully bleating and chicks looking extra fluffy and cute, a visit to the farm seems like the perfect spring activity.
Rowan Garrett - Food for Thought participant
Growing up I got involved with crimes and drugs at a very young age. I got to the stage where I saw myself either dying or doing to prison it was a dark place. That where Food for Thought comes in. It is a health and wellbeing project supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged people to learn new skills, keep fit and make friends. The jobs we do are really meaningful like nurturing plants and harvesting fruit and vegetables. We even make jams and sell them in the farm shop. We all work in a team and it is such a calming environment – great for developing confidence, self worth and independence. It pretty much saved my life
And while the animals at Lambourne End Centre are photogenically pleasing, the impact they have on visitors at Manor Road, Chigwell, goes a lot further then aesthetics.
As part of the Hands On programme, young people struggling in school or those with learning difficulties, are given the chance to learn about animals and the experience can also be put towards a qualification in animal care.
Hundreds of schools in the borough refer pupils to the farm and the scheme also helps with other subjects.
Whereas younger children will collect eggs, feed chickens and develop maths skills, older children can learn how to look after and spot the signs of illness.
“We see everyone’s potential here,” said Claire Gilmore, fundraising and marketing co-ordinator.
“We don’t see what they can’t do but what they can.
“We build confidence and self esteem so they can realise their aspirations and see that if they put their minds to it, they can achieve.”
To find out more about the schemes, which benefit so many young people who are on the margins of school life, I headed down to the farm to have a go at looking after the animals.
The biggest pets I have had the pleasure of taking care of are a trio of gerbils, so when I found out I would be cuddling and feeding a range of animals big and small I was excited but a little bit out of my depth.
Walking into the yard, kitted out with pink wellie boots, the first thing I noticed was how engaged all the young people were.
From mucking out the animal enclosures to giving the massive pigs the once over, the group were absorbed with their work.
Focusing on my task I walked into a pen filled with friendly yet assertive sheep.
As soon as I put out food they rushed over and weren’t afraid to make their presence known.
My stock mental image of sheep grazing laissez-faire in a field was completely quashed when one went on its hind legs in a bid to take a lamb treat from me.
My relationship with ovine was speedily restored however when I got to cuddle with a lamb.
Carefully picking him up, being mindful to support his bum and chest, was a pure moment.
The little woolly bundle was both curious about the world but eager to stick close to his mother.
Mum and baby back together I took a stroll to the other side of the farm to feed the goats and rabbits.
On my way, I walked past a vegetable patch which is the produce of another scheme run by the farm.
“The Food for Thought scheme is a horticultural project but the main aim of it is to nurture independence and life skills,” said Claire.
“It’s a transitional project which engages 15-years-olds with disabilities and vulnerable young people.
“It bridges the gap and provides a constant activity when they are facing lots of changes through leaving school.”
As well as running animal and food programmes, the centre runs outdoor activities such as caving and climbing and also holds a residential for The Prince’s Trust.
I only spent a morning at the centre but the positive and welcoming vibes made me feel comfortable around the animals.
My confidence soared in just a few hours and I headed back to the office with a refreshed attitude.
The schemes that take place at Lambourne End are life changing for so many people but they rely on volunteers, grants and fundraising events to finance them.
The next open day, with low ropes, caving, kayaking, pond dipping, farm animals, crafts and a bouncy castle, will take place on April 23, 11am-4pm.
There is a cost of £1.50 per activity or an unlimited wrist band which is £6 for under eights, £12 for over.
For more information call 0208 5003047 or visit lambourne-end.org.uk