Author Martin Felstead
Community Development Manager
Sorting through my daily back-log of emails, I came across a pleasant surprise when I opened one from the National Probation Service which contained a letter praising our Growing Forward Project in Brighton. Growing Forward is a project funded by the Safer in Sussex Community Fund as part of the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner’s initiative to find new innovative ways to work with offenders and is led by Huw Morgan, Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Community Officer in Brighton.
The letter highlighted how both offenders and probation service staff had enjoyed the simple pleasures of being outdoors at our Stanmer Park site. Throughout the murky month of February the group learnt how to weave hazel fences, make bird-feeders and cook over the campfire in a non-judgemental, all-inclusive atmosphere shot through with good humour. This ‘can-do’ approach created an exciting experience for all involved within which people shared skills in an atmosphere of cooperation and team-building.
Most importantly, this allowed people to experience nature in new ways that helped them feel valued, respected and part of their own community when they are more used to isolation and exclusion. The project engages with small numbers of people but in a deeper way which is aimed at helping people change their perspectives on the world around them.
It was great news indeed to hear that some people who had been through the project had enrolled in other courses or voluntary work and some had offered to volunteer directly to the project in order to help others who will follow. Finally, the Commissioners Office came to film the group at work in Stanmer Park, during which participants gave interviews to camera in order to share their positive experiences.
The project ends at the end of March and we are looking for further support in order to carry on this valuable work. Our thanks go to the Safer in Sussex Community Fund, the National Probation Service and all those who took part.