Dozens of volunteers from Dorset’s Wessex Group answered a call for help and spent a day sprucing up a farm used by disadvantaged and disabled children.
The 30 volunteers descended on Rylands Farm in Holnest, Sherborne, to apply their skills. Farm owners Jim O’Brien and partner Julie Plumley run Future Roots, a not-for-profit social enterprise that helps transform people’s lives.
It supports young people with disabilities, those who are struggling to cope with life challenges or those with a genuine interest in working on the land or in trades. It also has a Countryman’s Club for rural men aged between 60 and 95 who are often isolated.
Care farming – the therapeutic use of farming practices – is proving hugely beneficial to the young and old. Volunteers from the Shaftesbury-based Wessex Group brought plenty of expertise with them on the day of action.
They were able to put new electrics in the office, carry out safety work in the Countryman’s Barn, erect a donated field shelter and give other parts a lick of paint.
Jim, who works for the Wessex Group, was amazed at the number of colleagues who turned up, and they included Group founder and chairman Tony Morgan. Jim said: “My partner Julie is a social worker and when we bought the farm in 2006 it was our intention to use it to help others.
“We converted a barn into a place where we could teach skills and we secured some funding to help us. But we rely on donations and volunteers, and colleagues from the Wessex Group have been a massive help. What they did in one day has been remarkable and the improved facilities will be well used. It really is wonderful to see how some of the disadvantaged children who come here develop as characters and go on to do well.”
“We teach them many things including plumbing, electrics, carpentry and bricklaying and we can even put them through City and Guilds courses. They come from specialist and mainstream schools and we have referrals from other agencies. We find that those who come really benefit from being with the animals and helping out on a working farm.”
Colin Higgs, Wessex Group Development Manager, organised for volunteers to attend the farm on a Saturday. He said: “When I saw what Jim and Julie were doing I was so impressed I asked for volunteers to come and help do a few jobs. We had 30 members of staff and their families turn up which is more than I could have hoped for. And because the Group is a collection of different companies we had volunteers who work in Property Care and Electricals – which proved very useful.”
Wessex Group chairman Tony Morgan said: “In discharging their Corporate Social Responsibility some companies look upon it as a ‘tick-box’ exercise. But this is a real effort and will be on-going. To have so many volunteers is impressive. As a Rotarian I am delighted with Shaftesbury Rotary Club’s new policy to welcome major local employers in to Corporate Membership to work together on other worthy projects.”
Picture: Jim O’Brien, Tony Morgan, Colin Higgs and some of the Wessex Group Volunteers