Adults with learning disabilities or mental health issues in the North West are building their skills and confidence by experiencing life on a working farm, thanks to a grant from Big Lottery Fund.
Gortilea Social Farm CIC in Claudy, Co Derry, has received a £9,900 grant from Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme. It is part of a Big Lottery Fund grants roll out of £750,453 to 96 groups across Northern Ireland. (See full list of awards on our website) including £78,778 to 10 groups in the north west area.
Gortilea Social Farm provides learning and development opportunities for adults with learning disabilities and/or mental health issues in a natural farming environment in Claudy. They are using the grant to run their Social Farming Day Opportunity project for adults with learning disabilities, which offers the opportunity to work towards an accredited qualification.
People who are involved in the project are coming to the farm weekly to look after animals, learn horticulture and countryside management, and develop the new polytunnel and allotment area which was previously funded by Awards for All. Carers and parents get involved in the farm work too.
Ryan Burton (32) who has a learning disability is one of those who is benefiting from the project. He has been involved for less than two months, but that short time has already brought about a great change in him, according to Claire McMonagle, Gortilea’s Occupational Therapist.
“Here at Gortilea, Ryan is able to make good use of all the energy that was pent up inside by doing horticultural work. And he has a real love of nature and animals, so this is an ideal place for him to develop skills and confidence. He is very keen to learn,” she said.
Ryan is now working towards Level 1 LANTRA training in farm based activities. A typical day at the farm for Ryan includes horticulture and animal care – there are sheep, cows, pigs, horses and dogs on the farm – and he might also get involved in cooking and baking. Claire said that Ryan has good peer support from the other men in the project. He is very excited that they are about to start restoring a vintage tractor at the farm.
Ryan said: “I love looking after the animals and I’m really looking forward to lambing season which will be very busy. I also like the physical work and machinery. I enjoy working in small groups as at times I feel I can’t cope so well in larger group environments. I enjoy the craic with the other men at the farm, and I always sleep well after a hard day’s work.
“I learn something different every day I spend there. I really look forward to a Tuesday when I come to the farm every week.”
Ms McGonagle said: “As an occupational therapist, I can see that Gortilea is a great alternative to traditional day care provision. Ryan and others like him need a wide range of day opportunities that offer choices, in an environment that supports them to flourish and reach their goals, and Gortilea is ideal for that.”
If you are interested in the farm’s service check out the Gortilea Social Farm CIC Facebook page
Other Derry/Londonderry area projects
County Derry Community Games based in Longtower and Steelstown in Derry/Londonderry promotes a range of cultural and sporting activities for young people. They are using the £9,198 grant to provide training for new volunteers, hold a series of art and drama workshops and provide sports training for young people.
Foyle Down Syndrome Trust Limited provides a weekly one to one home based education programme for children and young people. They received a grant of £6,420 to give 23 young people with Down Syndrome aged 12 to 21 new opportunities to learn and develop creativity, and awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity.
Little Orchids, in Derry/Londonderry supports children with special needs aged between two and four. They are using the £2,600 grant to support and train volunteers, and cover their expenses and transport to the centre.
St Peter’s Church in Derry/Londonderry provides a range of social activities and events to the local community. They received a grant of £10,000 to make improvements to their facilities so they can be used for events and activities.