Tullibody Community Garden, Clackmannanshire
Action for Children in Tullibody has celebrated its 25th anniversary. In 1984 it set up its first service focused on helping families affected by unemployment in this former mining town. This later developed into a more general family support service for the local community. It was keen to mark this and applied to YouthLink Scotland for an intergenerational grant.
The aims of the project were:
• to build on their outdoor work with children in the early years programme and in the after-school clubs
• to create something of lasting value and to include others who have been part of the 25 year journey
• to create a more positive image of young people in the local community.
They decided to create a garden with a path. This would help to make the space outside the Centre more attractive with foliage, seats and planters. This also created a perfect opportunity for ten young people between 16 and 19 years who were embarking on their Youthbuild Challenge programme. This is for young people who have experienced barriers to employment. Some lived in Tullibody, some had previously used the centre's services and others had no previous connection with the Centre. The Challenge is a stepping stone to the full-time Youthbuild programme which offers a guaranteed job and qualifications.
Because the work would be carried out by vulnerable young people Action for Children carefully considered safe passage, health and safety and child protection issues. The young people were introduced to the Centre and given a clear understanding of what was expected of them. By the third week, they were reminding each other not to swear too loudly! All ages use the Centre - children and their parents, as well as young people and of course, the staff. All had opportunities to influence and to take part in decisions about materials, colours, planting and the design of the path. Two bricklayers came from Ayrshire to give the young people a brickwork session and the Youthbuild workers offered ongoing training on relevant tasks. Links with local builders' merchants also benefited the project with materials, tools and skills.
Building the path and the garden took from October to December 2009 with young people turning up daily. Throughout the process, there was a real buzz in the centre. For example, one day parents made soup and invited the young people for lunch. Once the path was complete, the culmination of the project was the planting day. The young people were also invited to the 25th anniversary celebrations. These were attended by the Chief Executive of Clackmannanshire Council and took place in a tent complete with candelabra!
Action for Children was originally the National Children's Home, and then NCH. Founded in London 141 years ago by a Methodist minister, it now runs over 500 projects. These include early years services, family support, residential children's units, housing support, respite services, foster care, youth services and diversion from crime. This purpose-built centre in Tullibody is now nine years old.
The upkeep of the garden will be undertaken by young people on Community Service, as well as by the children and families themselves. Already people drop in with plants from their own gardens. The project was also in the finals of the Care Accolade Awards, 2010.
In mid-November the garden was vandalised. However the young people rallied round immediately and set about making good the damage, demonstrating their commitment to making the garden work. The young people had built a strong relationship with the Centre's staff and knew the garden has been a factor in maintaining morale through redundancies - the garden made them smile, they said!
The timing of the project was dictated by funding requirements. Ideally there should have been longer preparation time and more opportunity for families to spend time at the centre.
There was a real sense of excitement and of ownership during the building process. The families particularly appreciated that the young people were working in wintry conditions. ‘Aren't they brilliant being out there on a day like this!'
Young people also felt more confident in talking about their feelings in the run-up to the interviews for the full Youthbuild programme.
The main challenge now is keeping the garden going, putting things in and ensuring there is not further vandalism. To this end, they are developing positive relationships with the police and community wardens. Jimmie said, 'Thank you for giving me hope for myself and for the future'.
What people said
'We had our say about where things went. You could pick and choose. My daughter loved doing that bit' - Mother and community member Karen.
'The young folk were easy to share our space with. Very polite but they were good at getting on with what they were here for...they looked interested. They weren't at all happy when it was damaged. You should have seen them. Gutted!'
'They were doing something to make the place look nice and then stand back and say 'I did that!' It gave them a sense of achievement. It's a good thing for teenagers to feel that....well, for us all really!' - Parent and community member.
'Young people came and learned how to build a path. It's a very beautiful path - the most beautiful path I've ever seen! Every one loves it. I want sunflowers and roses and daisies in our garden. That's the story of our path' - Melissa, aged 9.