Gardening for Young Carers
Did you know that our Communities team work with young carers, sharing the magic of gardening and the therapeutic benefits of being outdoors? As Thursday 30 January marks Young Carers Awareness Day, we met Sarah Oliver, Youth Specialist, to ask her about her experiences working with young carers and the impact that gardening can have on young people.
30 January 2020
Sarah works for Eikon, a charity working in partnership with schools, communities, health and social care organisations to support young people to develop into confident, thriving and resilient young people who contribute positively to society. Sarah is based in Kings College Guildford. Her role is to support young people there, and she has worked on a number of collaborative projects with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). The school’s garden won a Gold award as part of RHS Guildford in Bloom in 2019.
“There are a high number of young carers at the school. Some have brothers and sisters who they help care for, and some are responsible for looking after their parents. The needs of the person they are caring for can be complex, for example, they may have a parent suffering with drug or alcohol misuse, or who has poor mental health. This can bring up a whole host of emotions from frustration and sadness, to anger and confusion.
“We have found gardening has a positive effect on our young carers. The school hosts gardening club sessions, which provide respite from caring responsibilities. Young people can find it easier to talk about their feelings while working on a task in the garden than they might do in a different setting, and this has led us to have rich and useful conversations outdoors. Some might not want to talk, and that’s OK too.
“Gardening encourages young carers to focus on their wellbeing; being active, learning new things, connecting with others and being present. We also find the garden can lift the mood of young people. Doing a job like digging or weeding is a great stress reliever! The knock-on effect is that we see an improvement in children’s behaviour, relationships and engagement in lessons.
“We are well supported by Lettie Irving, Senior Community Outreach Advisor at the RHS. Lettie arranged for our pupils to visit RHS Garden Wisley, an opportunity that was particularly important for our young carers who might not otherwise get the chance to visit because of their responsibilities. They can also find it difficult to take part in extracurricular activities, as some may not have the transport or money to take part. Plus, Lettie kindly hosted gardening sessions in our garden, teaching our young people new skills and inspiring confidence in their abilities.”
“Having taken part in the RHS’ Green Plan It competition, the school applied for an RHS grant and we are now building the garden and seating area that our young people designed as part of the competition. Our pupils have well and truly caught the gardening bug!”
Are you a young carer? Visit the Carers Trust for advice and support.