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'This has opened up a space which can now be used for years to come by the community' - Prince's Trust Team programme volunteers spruce up Stafford children's centre

June 11 2021

You can tell they are really proud of their work - myself and Alec were incredibly proud too. It should be emphasised how well they did in anxiety-enducing circumstances for them.

Lewis Coles - Prince’s Trust Team Programme Assistant at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service

Five teenagers and young adults who enrolled on the Prince’s Trust Team programme – delivered locally by Staffordshire and Fire Rescue Service as a partner – recently helped spruce up a children’s centre garden in a bid to give something back to their community.

The five volunteers, all aged between 16 and 25 and local to Stafford except one who is from Uttoxeter, teamed up with the fire service’s Prince’s Trust Team Programme Assistant Lewis Coles and Prince’s Trust Team Programme Team Leader Alec Voss to help renovate the garden at Silkmore Children’s Centre as part of the Team programme.

Between May 24 and 28 and on June 2 and June 3, they gave their time to work in the garden and help clear away weeds and unwanted plants, fix broken installations, re-design and re-paint current installations such as outdoor tables and signage, upcycle materials for garden use and create a sensory garden.

“The process is pretty much student-led,” Lewis explained. “All the young people were assigned an iPad and they were researching organisations in the community we could do something for. That’s the brief for this part of the programme – ‘let’s do something for the community’.

“One of the students landed on this potential opportunity. We observed the garden first and made some plans. The first task was general tidiness such as overgrown grass and weeds. The group are a really creative one so the biggest thing they were doing was painting.

The volunteers on the Prince's Trust Team programme with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service's Prince’s Trust Team Programme Assistant Lewis Coles and Prince’s Trust Team Programme Team Leader Alec Voss at Silkmore Children's Centre, Stafford

“We put vibrant colours onto installations that were already there such as tyres in the ground which we turned into a rainbow. There was a bit of a shed which we decided to paint a mural on to make it look inviting.

“The final thing was construction. We utilised a series of wooden pallets destined for the bin and sanded them down and grouped them together to create a mud kitchen. This allows children to interact with their hands and create things like mud pies to explore their creativity and interact with the world around them.”

Before that, the volunteers banded together with Lewis and Alec to put on a fundraiser for the centre and raise some much-needed cash to help pay for the resources to be used.

“They came up with the prospect of hosting and holding an online charity quiz, a feat that for a cohort who suffer with severe anxiety was great,” Lewis added. “Our team wrote their own questions, created a professional presentation and interacted with video broadcasting software in order to deliver a fantastic quiz night attended by family, friends and members of the public who had seen the event flyer on social media.

“The team worked incredibly hard and despite their intense anxieties were able to summon the courage to confidently deliver the quiz live, making it a great success. We received fantastic feedback and it was a huge confidence boost for our young people.”

One of the volunteers with some of the work carried out

The quiz night raised £424 which far surpassed their target. The large amount of money facilitated a better quality finish on the project than had been planned for, making the garden a vibrant, safe space for children and their families.

“It was beyond their expectations,” Lewis continued. “You can tell they are really proud of their work - myself and Alec were incredibly proud too. It should be emphasised how well they did in anxiety-enducing circumstances for them to deliver that quiz and raise the funds, and then how hard they worked over the two weeks. This has opened up a space which can now be used for years to come by the community.”

Mark Sutton, cabinet member for children and young people at Staffordshire County Council – who run Silkmore Children’s Centre, said: “Our centre’s garden is really popular with local families and provides a calm space where children and parents can play, reflect and learn.

“The young people have done an amazing job doing up the garden and I’d like to thank them for their hard work. The way they have raised funds and made the improvements will have a real benefit for the local community.

“It looks and feels like a welcoming place which will be much-needed as people start to get out and enjoy the good weather. And, as we start to run more of our activities outdoors I’m sure we will see even more families dropping into the centre.”

One of the team shows off one of the installations improved during the work

The Team programme is a personal development programme which takes on young people aged between 16 and 25 who may be lacking in confidence and helps them overcome mental health issues as well as getting ‘work-ready’. They often then go on to further education, volunteering, training or work.

Courses are free, run three times a year and each one lasts for 12 weeks. For more information and to sign up to a course, visit www.staffordshirefire.gov.uk/your-safety/young-people/princes-trust/princes-trust-team/