Prevention Better Than Cure

A pilot programme aimed at encouraging children to become volunteers is proving a success at Deen City Farm.

Developed by Merton Council’s Youth Inclusion Support Panel (YISP), the Deen City Farm Volunteering and Arts Programme is being participated in by 10 children referred to YISP who may just be vulnerable or at risk of becoming involved with anti-social behaviour and offending activity.

Part of the Merton Turnaround Project, YISP is a crime prevention service helping vulnerable children between 8 and 13 years receive support at an early stage to prevent them becoming involved in offending activities.

Participants contribute to late-afternoon routines at the farm including bringing in the animals from the fields, haying up and feeding followed by fun classroom-based arts and crafts activities.

Many of the same children also took part in ‘Farm Fantastic’, an eight-week programme held between June and August involving the hand-made construction of 400 ceramic tiles which were used to decorate a concrete planter in the community garden of Deen City Farm.

Upon completion tomorrow of the successful six-week pilot, some of the older children will return to the farm as weekend volunteers to continue building friendships while many children under 12 have already tried their hands at other YISP projects such as Farm Fantastic or Discovery Week, held in the half-term holidays of October and involving a range of farm and craft activities.

Councillor Linda Kirby, Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Environmental Quality and former Secretary of Deen City Farm said:

“Unfortunately, these days many of our young people spend a lot of their time engaged in anti-social behavior. This excellent preventative pilot programme offers an ideal opportunity for youngsters to absorb themselves in the life of a city farm while still learning how important it is to be a thoughtful member of our society.

“The kids involved in the pilot are loving it and very eager. If it continues to be successful as seems likely, it will run as part of a year-round programme in 2005.”

Penny Leslie, Trustee at Deen City Farm said the programme allowed children to learn and have fun at the same time.

“It is an exciting project that gives them an opportunity to learn about volunteering and helping others in the community. As well as encouraging involvement and ownership, it has also built self-confidence and self esteem,” she said.