The young people aged between 16 and 25 have been taken out of the city and their comfort zone and into a 40-acre woodland where they will be able to experience the outdoors, learn new skills, understand the importance of conservation work and participate and contribute to sustaining the natural countryside.
Charley, 19 from Plymouth has been living at Plymouth Foyer since December and has enjoyed being away from the hustle bustle of city life.
Charley, a Plymouth Foyer resident, said: “I have been to two workshops so far and am really enjoying them. At first I found it a bit daunting being so far out of the city, away from my home comforts but I thought no I have to give this a good go!
“It’s just been lovely to socialise round the campfire and be in a different environment as the Foyer can get quite noisy and busy with so many young people coming and going but here it’s just peaceful and tranquil and away from everything.
“I have seen a baby calf being born in the farm next to the woodland and have carved my own butter knife to use at dinner out of wood I had chopped myself. These are things I just wouldn’t normally do or see.
“I am hoping to move to my own place and live independently soon and am in talks with City College Plymouth to start a barbering course with them. The Foyer has helped me with all of this as well as support with counselling as my mental health hasn’t been great recently.
“The support from the coaches at the Foyer and these workshops are helping me to feel more balanced. I feel in a good place at the moment and am really excited about the next workshop where I will be camping in the meadow.”
The workshops are designed to encourage the young people to connect with each other, notice their environment and be active. They blend in perfectly with the theme of this week’s Mental Health Awareness Week which is raising awareness of how connecting with nature benefits our mental wellbeing.
Richard Lunn, Manager at Plymouth Foyer said: “We know many of our residents have struggled with their mental health with the restrictions of lockdowns having minimised their opportunities to continue with normal life routines, visiting friends, going out socialising, which has a huge impact on them.
“The wellbeing workshops provide them with an accessible opportunity to immerse themselves in nature and look at positive alternative methods of managing their mental and emotional wellbeing.”
LiveWest has supported this project with a successful funding bid. The young people will be encouraged to feel the sense of freedom that exists in the woodland environment and is part of the mindfulness built into the programme. It is hoped that the experience will inspire those involved to appreciate the importance of nature.
Richard added: “By separating from their busy culture, where they are under pressure to be online all the time, they can revaluate what is important to them.
“Many of our residents are in the midst of studying, applying for jobs and looking for future accommodation, they are having to make some of the biggest most influential decisions of their lives whilst living with us.”
Over the sessions young people will have the opportunity to learn a combination of conservation and traditional woodland management as well as traditional craft skills, giving their time to support the sustainable management of the woods.
Activities such as coppicing, charcoal making, meadow management, planting native trees thereby giving back to the planet.
They will also have the opportunity to make simple wooden structures, furniture and kitchen implements, using traditional hand tools, giving them an idea of how life was before modern tools and the conveniences of today.
An important part of the day is lunch, which the young people were able to cook on an open fire and provides great opportunity for everyone to connect and share their experience.
As part of the experience with local outdoor activity company Greenwood Music CIC (a social enterprise) participants will have the opportunity to complete the John Muir Award, which involves ‘discovering a wild place’, ‘exploring it’, ‘conserving it’ and ‘sharing your experience’.
Phil Harwin, Director at Greenwood Music CIC said: “As a social enterprise that aims to 'boost and improve the wellbeing of people and planet' we are really committed to providing wellbeing in nature programmes in our relaxed and beautiful semi-ancient woodland in Cornwall, that can benefit ALL members of society.
“After such a long period of nature deficit, through this collaboration with LiveWest's Plymouth Foyer, it is so exciting to offer a six week programme- including an overnight experience- to its residents. It was extremely rewarding to see these young people relax and embrace this experience from the offset.
“Lockdown has had such a huge impact on so many people, particularly those struggling with multiple and complex issues: we know that time spent with us in nature can really boost participant's wellbeing and we are really looking forward to working with these young people.”
Since opening in 2000 Plymouth Foyer, which is based in Stonehouse Plymouth, has provided accommodation and support for young people with a diverse range of strengths, needs and aspirations who are experiencing homelessness. The foyer invests in unlocking and developing the talents and skills of young people so that they can live independent thriving lives by delivering a range of activities focusing on money management, social skills, personal development, finances, employability, and learning.